Guyana Bauxite: Rusal standoff ends; workers to resume duty within days

Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman

Present for a second conciliation meeting were union officials, Ephraim Velloza and Lincoln Lewis of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union (GB&GWU) and Vladimir Permyakov, Mikhail Krupenin and former Chief Labour Officer, Mohamed Akeel, who were representing Rusal/Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc.

Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle, is set to witness the signing of the Terms of Resumption today.
The breakthrough is expected to see workers removing barricades from the Berbice River.

It would have been a testing five weeks for 91 workers who had no idea where their next paycheck was coming from.         

While union officials were tight-lipped, Kaieteur News was told the breakthrough came after a four-hour meeting at the Hadfield Street law offices of Hughes, Fields & Stoby.

For BCGI, it would have been a rude awakening that even Government was tired of its behaviour.

The standoff would have also brought the spotlight down on Rusal and its tax and other concessions.
It received billions of dollars of concessions during its decade and half stay in the Upper Berbice area, Region Ten.

In mid-February, workers of Rusal’s Kurubuka mines downed tools and asked to meet management after seeing a one percent increased to their pay.

However, they were ordered to return to work.

Ninety-one workers who downed tools had their services terminated by Rusal, sparking a standoff where workers refused orders to leave the housing quarters in Aroaima.

Workers and residents also blocked the Berbice River, effectively halting Rusal from shipping bauxite.
Government has been meeting with the company and workers to find a resolution.
The company had come under the microscope for similarly firing 57 workers in 2009.

Union officials meeting with Government ministers  in Aroaima

Those workers were never reinstated.

Until now, Government has largely left the company alone, fearing a possible pullout.

Government had sent in teams, including ministers, and even invited the company’s representatives to meet its labour officials to diffuse the matter.

A breakthrough occurred last week when the company agreed to recognize the union, something it had steadfastly refuse to do over the past decade.

Yesterday, the Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, asked for patience.
“Right now, it’s really urgent the government and the union and the company try to expedite a resolution. I believe we can safely say all are involved and all are being consumed by this and my word to the loggers is to hold with us for a short while.

“I can’t say a few hours or a few days but certainly not a few months; we are pushing for a resolution,” the Natural Resource Minister said.

Minister Trotman further urged a speedy resolution to the impasse which has affected several sectors of the economy since its inception several weeks ago.

“The standoff has affected many sectors. Government is not earning revenue from the shipment of bauxite and loggers have been affected.

Their employment, of course, is affected, and certainly at my level I am urging the Minister of Social Protection to try to get a resolution to this issue as a matter of urgency,” Trotman added.

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