Submitted by Guyana Bauxite General Workers Union
Workers of the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) have lodged a complaint with the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) that on Sunday May 8th the company’s General Manager, Mr. Ruslan Volokhov, carrying a spade in his hand threatened to bash their heads and faces then bury them. This threat was made to the workers when they were in the company’s bus at the camp site. On investigating the matter the workers advised that the threat was sparked from their inability to attend work on time on May 8th since there was no water to shower because the pump at the site was cut off, due to some problem, and supply did not return until approximately 9:00 a.m. on Sunday 8th May. The fact that the company failed to ensure there was water supply, from the afternoon of Saturday 7th May to approx. 9:00 a.m. on Sunday 8th May, for workers to adhere to personal hygiene was of no concern to this general manager.
The Guyana Trades Union Congress is very disturbed by this new development and threat to the workers of this country. This is not plantation slavery for the general manager to dare to think he can come to this sovereign country to violate workers like this. For him being given the courtesy to come and exploit our natural resources and to dare to think the exploitation of our natural resources is equal to the exploitation of our manpower and laws, and the violations of the citizens’ rights and dignity we find totally unacceptable. We call on BCGI to sanction his actions, and call on the Government of Guyana to sanction BCGI to protect the rights of Guyanese labour.
The Russians are taking their cues from government’s actions and inactions and their violation of the rights of bauxite workers by giving tacit support to BCGI lawlessness and disrespect for local and international laws, declarations and conventions which bind labour relations. The refusal of the Minister of Labour to enforce the Labour Laws on this company is exacerbating the situation.
What happened to bauxite workers on May 8th is akin to plantation slavery, which manifests itself today as modern slavery, where human life and dignity have no value other than for the production of goods and services; and when slaves were quartered and mutilated to satisfy Massa’s pleasure and passion. That the general manager can approach his fellow human being, Guyanese workers, with a spade and think it is acceptable to threaten to beat and bury them this has to be one of the worst affronts to labour in modern times.
This government has created, encouraged and nurtured this aggression against the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU), bauxite workers, African Guyanese and citizens. This general manager who is reportedly known to visit the mines under the influence of alcohol, behaving drunk and disorderly, to now believe that he too as an individual, with the support of others, can threaten the lives of bauxite workers is an outrage and it must end!
The GTUC is therefore calling on the Government of Guyana and the People of Guyana to let the General Manager know his behaviours are reprehensible and will not be tolerated in this society. If the government fails to condemn and take action to protect the citizens, then it is safe to assume that government is giving support and comfortable with this emerging plantation class, and representative slavery characteristics.
GUYANA TRADES UNION CONGRESS
16TH MAY, 2011
The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) has taken note of the statement issued by the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) in response to its concerns of the General Manager, Mr. Ruslan Volokhov, use of physical threats to the workers on Sunday May 8th. It is worthy to note that the company in its statement admitted Volokhov visited the camp site and “remonstrated strongly” with the workers. Further, the company did not deny the use of a spade by the manager and his threat to workers that he will bash their heads and faces and then bury them. In the said statement the company also admitted that there was a water problem and it was not restored until after 7:00 a.m. on Sunday and it should be noted that the shift for the day starts at 6:00a.m. The fact remains that the inability of the workers to adhere to personal hygiene at the end of the previous day’s shift to the beginning of the next day’s shift, which caused them to go to work late, is a condition not of the workers’ making and the treatment made by the general manager totally unacceptable. In fact one of the company’s operative admitted to Kaieteur News (May 14th) the untoward incident when he said “The manager behaved badly and disrespectfully. He was wrong. [T] he workers acted with restraint and with maturity and did not resort to strike actions over the matter.”
The resolution to this matter has to adhere to universal industrial principles, wherein when there is such an occurrence management does not resort to threats of physical violence and death but seeks to ensure that normalcy is maintained, and the workers not be made the target of its shortcoming.
The GTUC is reliably informed that a team from RUSAL will be visiting the site to investigate the incidence. It is our expectation, consistent with Guyana’s Labour laws and our Constitutional rights, that the workers be given a chance to be heard, represented by their union, the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union, in keeping with Section 23 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act, Chapter 97:08, and in keeping with our constitutional right to freedom of association and the right to representation. There must be no failure to adhere to these universal guidelines in a sovereign country and the Government of Guyana, on behalf of the People of Guyana, must ensure such action/investigation to be carried out in the manner that upholds the tenets that inform who we are as a sovereign nation and what guides international business and industrial relations. The GTUC is calling on all law abiding people of this sovereign nation to demand and expect no less.
It is further our fervent view that any investigation that seeks to disrespect the
workers’ right to freedom of association and representation and honouring of the laws of Guyana will be seen as a further confirm that the company thinks this is plantation slavery, which manifests itself today as modern slavery, where human life and dignity have no value other than for the production of goods and services; and when slaves were quartered and mutilated to satisfy Massa’s pleasure and passion.
Words coming from the site are that persons are dropping subtle hints to workers that should they speak out of turn they may not have a job. Fear stalks this land, but while the fears of the workers is understood in the context that they need a job to provide for their families, for those of us not on the site, ours is the task to speak for them, and speak on behalf of them, to ensure that they can enjoy what is just and rightly theirs- that is to live in a land where the right to work is respected and one can fearlessly pursue one’s dreams, the only condition being one’s adherence to the laws, not fear of his fellow man! Guyana is not a colony or is it a dependency of any nation.
While the GTUC again calls on BCGI to sanction its manager, more importantly it calls on the Government of Guyana to ensure the sovereignty of this nation is respected, the rights of its people upheld and the laws of this land enforced! No less will be accepted. Today the people of the nation, CARICOM, the diplomatic community and the world watch on at this matter and the government’s actions/inactions will send a strong signal whether this land belongs to Guyanese or it belongs to another! History is watching and recording us. Justice must be served!