Submitted by Press Release Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union
This morning (15th February 2019) workers at the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) downed tools protesting the Russian management’s imposition of one percent wages increase. This is an embarrassment to all Guyanese. The workers’ protest was responded to by management at a meeting held where they were brutally told that they will be fired if they do not return to work within the day, that they can seek redress wherever they want, and to hell with the government. The operation at the mines and maintenance departments have come to a halt.
Article 147(2) of the Constitution of Guyana protects the right to strike. And whereas in the Collective Bargaining process strike is considered an industrial weapon to be used whenever the circumstances become necessary, all are reminded that since December 2009, under the noses of successive governments, BCGI has been engaged in a series of violation of the law and transgressing of the workers’ rights. The management continues to refuse to treat with the recognised union of the workers’ choice, the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU).
GB&GWU has earlier today informed Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle, of the industrial action taken by the aggrieved and deprived workers. The Union stands in solidarity with these workers in the exercise of their basic right and for the upholding of their attendant rights. GB&GWU calls on all Guyanese to understand the struggles faced by these workers, to empathise with them, and to lend them your support. GB&GWU calls on the international community for its solidarity. The continued violation of BCGI workers threatens multiple family units and the entire communities within which they reside. The threat to one is a threat to all; and injustice here is an injustice everywhere.
Workers of BCGI have been suffering since under the previous government and continue to suffer under the current. How many more have to suffer, how many families and children have to suffer. As Guyanese, citizens of the world, one and all will have to face the reality now. The best defense for the unaffected lies in the protection of the rights of those around them. GB&GWU calls on the Government and Opposition to intervene immediately and stop this violating of the Guyana Constitution and the Rule of Law and the transgressing of the workers’ right by a foreign sovereign power.
In this period of political division and external tension with our neighbour Venezuela, who is facilitating a growing presence of Russia in its ongoing pursuit of geopolitical relevance, is management’s new threats and intensified violation a strategy we must pay attention to. Moreso, in the context of a heated upcoming election and the exploitation of our oil and gas resources. This matter is no longer a simple labour issue. There seems to be a hidden agenda with potentially dangerous consequences that both the Government and Opposition should take immediate action on. This is about a nation’s sovereignty and national interest, the respect for worldwide comity.