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GUYANA UNION CALLS ON MINISTER OF LABOUR TO UPHOLD THE LAW

posted 15 Jan 2010, 05:32 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 15 Jan 2010, 05:41 ]
Hon. Minister Mr. Manzoor Nadir
Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Security
1 Water & Cornhill Streets
Stabroek
Georgetown
GUYANA
 
January 13, 2010
 
 
Minister,
 
Re: Impasse between Bauxite Co. Guyana Inc. and Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union
 
The rule of law and fundamental rights are pillars upon which modern societies are built and development realised. It is this development that governments are elected to pursue and this can only be achieved providing the agencies charged with the responsibilities to contribute to nation building honour these principles.
 
Having evaluated the on going impasse between the Bauxite Company Guyana Inc (BCGI) and the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU) which commenced during negotiations in November 2009 and the escalating problems including BCGI letter dated Dec 1, 2009 to the Union stating it has terminated the Collective Labour Agreement which is in contravention of the Trade Union Recognition Act, Chapter 98:07, along with the strike, dismissal and suspension of strikers  and claims of current workplace intimidation for those who have returned to work, I am appalled that you have not, to date seen it fit to intervene, or have not caused interventions by your ministry, to immediately put an end to this national insult. Further, these prevailing conditions are in direct contravention of ILO conventions of which Guyana is a signatory and of which your Ministry is chief government custodian for.
 
Worthy of note is that BCGI is owned by both RUSAL and the Government of Guyana which makes it impossible to de-link the government from being responsible and working to undermine independent labour. Among those dismissed are all the union representatives. This speaks to and confirms suspicions of purposefulness in the inaction geared to undermine collective labour and creating an environment where trade unions will have no place in the social order unless these are affiliated to the government or compromise the strength of collective labour.
 
Whereas your intervention to bring about industrial harmony has not been forth coming this nation will remember your unsavory comments on the issue as without any subtlety or political cautiousness you chastised the predominantly African Bauxite workers of this nation for their legitimate and constitutional demand and right to strike for a living wage and safe conditions of work… conditions that your Ministry ought to be at the forefront ensuring that BCGI commits to.
 
Further your outward discriminatory stance as you made comparisons to the sugar industry dominated by an Indian workforce were also shocking. Such comments would never have gone without widespread public condemnation and calls for resignation in a country with respect for rights, its own diversity and the rule of Law. The fact that you have not corrected the public perception derived from these statements suggests that they are true and you are not worried about the pain, impact or disunity such statements create. The public is left to believe that they were fully intended as interpreted by Bauxite workers.
 
In the absence of any engagement with the union as recent as January 2, 2010 Stabroek News recorded your views on the impasse to the effect that:
          
a) Sugar "'accounts for over 15 percent of our foreign exchange earnings and it has critical importance to our economy.' While acknowledging the importance of bauxite to the country, Nadir noted that RUSAL is just one of several companies operating in that sector."
b) "And perhaps…we should let this festive season of goodwill take its course and hopefully both parties will exercise more generosity towards each other."

c) "Asked if the ministry had conducted an investigation to determine whether the signatures were taken fairly and not under duress, Nadir replied in the negative. He, however, opined that since the company has over 400 workers and since most of the workers are back at work, if it was a situation of the letters being sent under duress, the Ministry would have seen more letters and signatures. 'If you have 98 percent of the workers on the job and just about 25 percent of them asking for withdrawal I want to infer…I can't say as gospel, that it may indicate that those signatures were gotten of free will,' the Minister said."
 
The Union sees these occurrences as very troubling. It should be noted the impasse is several weeks old and counting and the strike is not over since normalcy does not exist at the Aroaima and Kwakwani sites as per industrial relations principles. As it presently stands the workplace is very tense, workers are being threatened and coerced to sign a company prepared petition seeking de-recognition of the union in contravention of ILO conventions and the Laws of Guyana and there have been dismissal on trumped charges without even a hearing.
 
At this juncture the Union wishes to record its efforts to engage BCGI management through the Ministry of Labour on December 2, 2009 and directly via letters dated December 5, 2009, December 7, 2009 and December 15, 2009. To date nothing has taken place. Further, on December 30, 2009 the Union hand delivered a letter to the Chief Labour Officer at the Ministry of Labour requesting the Ministry involvement consistent with his duty under the Laws of Guyana. The Union is yet to be accorded an acknowledgment or response in any form. The failure to respond to the Union’s request and the absence of any initiative by the Ministry to bring about a resolution to this impasse have impelled us to request your immediate involvement as Minister with responsibility for conciliating labour disputes.
As Minister you would agree the issue before us is grave since it borders on the violations of workers’ rights consistent with ILO Conventions and the rule of law and poses a threat to the stability of people and society.
 
Today the Union calls on you as an officer of the state who has taken an oath to uphold the Laws of Guyana to pay immediate attention to the violations under your watch and to act consistent with the labour laws by putting in place conciliatory proceedings base on the Collective Labour Agreement between the parties to have the matter resolved.
   
Bauxite workers will be anticipating your intervention without delay and are prepared to meet with you at a time that is immediately convenient.
 
Yours sincerely,
   
Charles Sampson
General President,
Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union.
 
CC Mr. Norris Witter, General Secretary (ag.) Guyana Trades Union Congress
Mr. Lincoln Lewis, General Secretary, Caribbean Congress of Labour
Mr. Victor Báez Mosqueira, General Secretary, Trade Union Confederation of the Americas
Ms. Liz Shuler, General Secretary, America Federation for Congress of Industrial Organisation
Mr. Brendan, General Secretary, British Trade Union Congress
Mr. John Monks, General Secretary, European Trade Union Congress
Mr. Hassan Yussuff, General Secretary, Canadian Labour Congress
Mr. Guy Ryder, General Secretary, International Trade Union Congress
Sir Roy Trotman, Vice Chairman, International Labour Organisation, Workers Group.
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