Striking workers from the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) have denied claims that the company has suspended operations and moved their equipment to storage.
Russian news agency, Sputnik, reported yesterday that BCGI’s parent company Russian Aluminium (RUSAL), has suspended their bauxite operation due to the ongoing strike by the workers. The report said that all mining activities have been suspended and the equipment moved to a warehouse.
However, speaking to Stabroek News last night, Leslie Junor, one of the workers, who is also the secretary of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) denied the claims by the Russian news agency and related that it was a normal tactic that they would employ.
“They report to Russia one thing but they would do something else down here. It’s an old system. Right now they are still working with what I would call a less than skeleton staff trying to push two and three trucks to work but it’s not getting anywhere,” he explained.
Currently, the workers are still camping out and blocking the Berbice River as they await results from the meeting today at the Department of Labour to facilitate talks between the company and the union.
“We are hoping to get results in our favour. There’s a meeting tomorrow (today) and another on Tuesday where the President and his Ministers will debate on the findings of GGMC,” he said.
Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman on Friday announced that he instructed the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to conduct a technical and legal assessment of all the local operations of RUSAL and will also examine the legal and other consequences of its closure.
Junor related that representatives from GGMC visited the operations to conduct their investigation and also interviewed some of their workers about the working conditions.
He said tomorrow, they will be staging a protest action that will start from Maple Town, progress to the company’s offices in Aroaima and then to the waterfront where they currently have the river blocked.
The impasse between the company and the workers began on February 15th, after the unilateral imposition of a 1 per cent increase in wages became the final straw for workers, who decided to strike.
After the industrial action continued over the weekend, a meeting was set at the Department of Labour on February 18th to facilitate talks between the company and the union. However, the company refused to attend the meeting once Head of the GB&GWU Lincoln Lewis was present.
As a result, only the union attended the meeting. However, on the same day 61 workers were fired and one subsequently was allowed to return to work.
On February 19th, BCGI Personnel Officer Mikhail Krupenin and RUSAL representative Vladimir Permyakov met with the Department of Labour and confirmed to the media that they sacked the workers due to their decision to protest. Permyakov had explained that certain clauses in the workers’ contracts prevents them from taking industrial action, which the ministry and the union both say is illegal.
Despite meeting with government ministers, who have urged the reinstatement of the sacked workers, Permyakov has said the company would not be reinstating them. The company subsequently fired 30 more workers.
Sources told Stabroek News that the company has started the process to fill the vacancies.