A decision by the Rusal owned, Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) to establish a Workers’ Social Welfare Committee has attracted harsh criticisms from the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU) which is contending that this is an attempt to isolate workers from labour unions.
The union in a statement on Friday said that it was in receipt of a memo from management of the Russian-controlled company notifying of it of their intention to create a “Workers’ Social Welfare Committee” from among the non-management workforce.
The committee, according to BCGI, will seek to address “workers socio-economic issues” and be its workers’ medium for communication and information flow to and from management.
GB&GWU said that the memo went as far as to describe the exact number of individuals that the committee will comprise of. Additionally, the union was told that the terms of reference and mode of operations will be made known to all employees.
BCGI is co-owned by a Russian company – Russia Aluminum (RUSAL) – and the Government of Guyana. RUSAL owns a 90% stake in the company, the remaining 10% belongs to the government.
BCGI has long said that it does not recognise the GB&GWU; and as such, BCGI workers have been without union representation for a number of years.
Rejecting this new development however, the union noted that this development occurred without any prior consultation on the aforementioned terms of reference.
GB&GWU said that this move signals, first, a recognition on the part of management that it has “hit a wall” as far as the overtly brutal treatment of workers is concerned and that it must now find other more seemingly palatable control mechanisms for its staff.
“Such committees, apart from being remote control mechanisms designed to keep workers in line are also reflective of a flagrant disregard for trade unions and for the constitutionally guaranteed right of workers to freedom of association. In this particular instance we are witnessing a transparent attempt to completely isolate the workers from their chosen trade union, the GB&GWU” the union said its its statement.
GB&GWU also pointed out that the move by the Russian-controlled company comes just one day after its management “inflicted” upon Government Ministers and union representatives, the “utterly unpardonable discourtesy” of failing to show up for a scheduled meeting without prior excuse.
As such, the union is holding firm to its belief that this development is reflective of the contempt in which the Russian management holds high officials of Guyana.
“We believe that the Government of Guyana would be failing in its duty, were it not to place on record, its concern over the discourtesy, and simultaneously demand an apology of the transgressors. We believe, too, that a point has now been reached where the Government of Guyana must lodge a protest with RUSAL parent company, at the highest possible level, over the conduct of its employees in Guyana” the statement added.
In light of these new developments, both the GB&GWU and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) remain confident that the workers of BCGI will “unanimously reject” what is, in effect, an “insidious control mechanism.”
Just last month GB&GWU has cause to call out the company on what it considered “relentless aggression.” The Union had said that the company had instructed workers to sign a document addressed to the government, stating that they (the workers) do not want GBGWU as a union.