Work­ers’ rights can­not be put into abeyance

Stabroek News Sunday - - LETTERS -

Dear Ed­i­tor, Ref­er­ence is be­ing made to Min­is­ter of Nat­u­ral Re­sources Raphael Trot­man’s com­ments in ar­ti­cles, “Gov’t look­ing at ‘re­place­ment’ for Rusal - Trot­man” and “Lo­cal Rusal work­ers in limbo” (SN: 3rd Oc­to­ber and 24th Septem­ber 2018, re­spec­tively). At­ten­tion is be­ing paid to two ger­mane is­sues, namely, 1) the Task Force (TF) which was set up in April to ad­dress how Olden­dorff and the Baux­ite Com­pany of Guyana In­cor­po­rated (BCGI) would be im­pacted upon based on the United States’ sanc­tions of RUSAL, the ma­jor­ity share­holder in BCGI; and 2) the in­dus­trial re­la­tions cli­mate in the two agen­cies.

The first meet­ing of the TF was ad­dressed by Min­is­ter Trot­man who never gave the com­mit­tee Terms of Ref­er­ence (ToRs) to guide its work. As such, the com­mit­tee de­vel­oped its ToRs based on in­ter­ac­tion with the af­fected work­ers and stake­hold­ers. That ToR ad­dressed two crit­i­cal ar­eas, namely, a) cur­rent work­ers/em­ployer re­la­tion­ship at the two com­pa­nies; and b) should sanc­tions be fully im­posed, the al­ter­na­tive route govern­ment must ex­am­ine for im­ple­men­ta­tion.

An In­terim Re­port was sub­mit­ted based on Item (a), which made pro­pos­als on how govern­ment can ad­dress the cur­rent work­ers/man­age­ment re­la­tion­ship. Last Wed­nes­day (3rd Oc­to­ber), the na­tion learnt that Cab­i­net took a de­ci­sion to hold the rec­om­men­da­tions/pro­pos­als, though fully aware that the in­dus­trial re­la­tions cli­mate in Olden­dorff and BCGI, is ac­ri­mo­nious. It is at the stage where there ex­ists no ne­go­ti­a­tion for the re­al­i­sa­tion of Col­lec­tive Labour Agree­ments, though trade unions have bar­gain­ing rights in both com­pa­nies.

In fact, the TF, since the res­ig­na­tion in July of its head Min­is­ter Si­mona Broomes, has not met even as in­for­ma­tion is gleaned from the me­dia that Lance Car­berry has been ap­pointed its new head. This is an­other dis­turb­ing de­vel­op­ment. For while none can ques­tion Car­berry’s knowl­edge and com­pe­tence about baux­ite, he is not op­er­at­ing at the level of day-to-day de­ci­sion mak­ing as Broomes, thereby not hav­ing the clout and author­ity as a min­is­ter to ef­fect de­ci­sive ac­tion on is­sues ex­ist­ing in the ToRs.

Im­por­tantly to note, there ex­ists a let­ter sent to BCGI man­age­ment by Min­is­ter Trot­man, dated 20th De­cem­ber 2017, which, in part, reads: “We [the govern­ment] con­grat­u­late the com­pany and its work­ers on their mu­tu­ally sat­is­fy­ing re­la­tion­ship, and urge both par­ties to con­tinue work­ing in har­mony to achieve fu­ture suc­cesses. Please note that as a govern­ment, we be­lieve in work­ers’ right to rep­re­sen­ta­tion and as such we are main­tain­ing [an] arm’s length ap­proach to union mat­ters.”

Min­is­ter Trot­man is fully aware of the ac­ri­mo­nious cli­mate at BCGI, where for nine years, man­age­ment has re­fused to en­gage the Guyana Baux­ite & Gen­eral Work­ers Union (GB&GWU), the work­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tive. As an at­tor­ney-at-law by train­ing, min­is­ter of govern­ment and law­maker, he knows the im­por­tance of words and the sig­nif­i­cance of his pen­man­ship. No­tably, he was the AFC lead speaker on the No-con­fi­dence Par­lia­men­tary Mo­tion against PPP/C Min­is­ter of Labour Man­zoor Nadir, brought by the Op­po­si­tion un­der the stew­ard­ship of Robert Corbin. Though the Coali­tion in­her­ited the BCGI prob­lem, it cam­paigned to cor­rect it should it se­cure of­fice, but con­tin­ues to ig­nore same by re­fus­ing to en­force the Con­sti­tu­tion and Laws of Guyana.

It was the de­ci­sion of the TF that as the com­mit­tee con­tin­ues its work, to ex­am­ine Item (b). Now so­ci­ety is be­ing ad­vised that govern­ment has put the In­terim Re­port on pause, which, in ef­fect, means it will do noth­ing, as it adopts a wait-and-see ap­proach, hop­ing for the best, while mak­ing an­other prom­ise to look at a ‘re­place­ment’ for RUSAL. The fail­ure to plan is a de­lib­er­ate act of pre­par­ing to fail.

In­struc­tive too, is that Min­is­ter Trot­man in the 24th Septem­ber ar­ti­cle, stated that the ToRs, which guided the In­terim Re­port, was to be placed be­fore Cab­i­net for de­ter­mi­na­tion. In ef­fect, the Min­is­ter is mak­ing

pub­lic ad­mit­tance to a fail­ure on his part in dis­charg­ing his duty of es­tab­lish­ing a TF with ToRs. In the 3rd Oc­to­ber ar­ti­cle, he came back and said that Cab­i­net has taken a de­ci­sion to put the In­terim Re­port that em­anated from the TF, in abeyance. What man­ner of gov­er­nance and lead­er­ship are we the peo­ple wit­ness­ing and be­ing sub­ject to?

Work­ers/cit­i­zens’ rights and re­spect­ing of the Law can­not be put into abeyance. These have to be re­spected and en­forced ev­ery sin­gle day of our lives and govern­ment con­tin­ues to fail us in the dis­charge of their duty and re­spon­si­bil­ity. The words in Min­is­ter Trot­man’s let­ter (20th De­cem­ber 2017) pledg­ing to BCGI, govern­ment’s hands-off ap­proach to what is hap­pen­ing in the com­pany, makes our re­al­ity as cit­i­zens, re­ly­ing on its govern­ment to pro­tect us, even more fright­en­ing. The APNU+AFC ad­min­is­tra­tion, ev­ery step of the way, has made work­ers sac­ri­fi­cial lambs in this coun­try. Trot­man’s tenac­ity in hold­ing Nadir ac­count­able for not act­ing, is to­day be­ing matched by in­ac­tion and col­lu­sion with for­eign na­tion­als to vi­o­late the laws and trans­gress work­ers/cit­i­zens’ rights. Yours faith­fully, Lin­coln Lewis

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