A high level team from the Government of Guyana today met with officials of the Rusal bauxite company and told them that Guyanese workers must be treated in a respectful manner and at all times the country’s labour laws must be upheld.
Ministers Amna Ally, Joe Harmon, Raphael Trotman and Keith Scott along with the Chief Labour Officer met with the Rusal representatives.
The meeting was called by the government following the company’s firing of 61 workers after they went on a strike over a 1% increase in their salaries.
According to the Ministry of the Presidency, during the meeting, Minister Harmon said Government views the ongoing dispute as serious and noted that it was among priority matters on the agenda at the last Ministerial Plenary.
“There are two objectives to this: the Guyanese workers must be treated in a respectful and fair manner at all times… their rights must be respected and at the same time, the company must function and ensure it makes profits for its shareholders. It is a question of finding common ground and ensure that our workers’ rights are respected. We must find common ground to move forward. The issues must be dealt with in a clear way,” he said.
Social Protection Minister Ally said the Government has laid out its contentions while the company was also given the opportunity to do so. The dismissed workers will also be given a chance to have their side heard, she said.
“What is going to happen, tomorrow we are going to have a second round of engagement where Minister Keith Scott, the Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection and the person who deals specifically with Labour, will be meeting with the workers at Aroima tomorrow [Friday] to have some discussions with them. What came out of this morning’s meeting is that after we have laid some of the issues, the executive will be taking this matter to their principals, have a discussion and then get back to us.
In addition to the engagement with the workers, Minister Ally said the Ministry of Social Protection will be providing support to the dismissed workers, particularly in the provision of basic amenities.
“One of the things we are going to be doing tomorrow is that we will be taking up some supplies that will assist the 60-odd workers who have been taken off their work posts; food items, et cetra to sustain them. The workers are there. They are in need. Their basic needs have been taken away and the Ministry of Social Protection…we are a caring Government and a caring Ministry. We have to find a way to give support and we cannot just leave them there. We have to be able to give them some sort of support for their livelihood so it shouldn’t be interpreted adversely,” she said.
The Rusal company has said that it dismissed the workers because their strike affected the company’s operations and it was unjustified.
Today, veteran trade unionist Lincoln Lewis stressed that a clear message needs to be sent to Rusal. He said the company must not be allowed to further disrespect its workers and the workers must be allowed to have union representation by a union of their choice.