A new workers’ union, claiming to represent the interest of employees in the mining industry, has been formed and is already promising to take stern action against ill-treatment of all categories of workers in the mining sector, both by their employers and the government.
The newly formed National Mine Workers Union of Guyana held an introduction press conference on Thursday and claimed that it already has a membership of well over 500 and has been consulting with employees in the sector since August 2015.
The Union said it does not have a single political agenda and was not affiliated with any of the existing workers union in Guyana as it seeks to maintain its independence.
Union President Sherwyn Downer who is a mining advocate from Bartica and claims to have been “born into mining” said the formation of the union was necessary in light of the many labour related issues that are “plaguing and drowning the industry.”
“Labour related issues have dominated mining reports in recent and it tells a story about what is taking place in the industry… we are hoping that workers in the mining industry will be embolden and be able to speak out on issues that are affecting them,”Downer said.
He noted that the body has been requesting meetings with at least two government Ministers since last year but those requests are yet to materialize.
Nonetheless, the Union says engagements are expected to take place with the Ministers of Natural Resources, Indigenous People’s Affairs and Social Protection in the near future. Downer was joined by another Board member, Shona Jones and his Public Relations Officer (PRO) Nixon Williams at the press briefing on Thursday.
The President said, to his knowledge, this is the first union seeking to represent the employees in the mining industry. He said the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) was a representative organization for employers while the Women Miners Organization was also another Body that represent the interest of only women miners.
The Union is also urging the government to invest more in the industry. “We want the government to move to establish an Industrial Court to address labour issues in all sectors of this country,” the President added.
The Union raised several issues, which are going to be ventilated over the next few months with all stakeholders including the respect for local mining and labour laws and respect for workers rights. Offices are expected to be set up in three locations in Essequibo even as the union calls for more support and protection for workers in that region, which is being claimed by neighboring Venezuela. (Kurt Campbell reporting)
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