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Bauxite workers feel abandoned by Govt – trade union leader

first_imgEven with an extended deadline of November 12 on the sanctions to be placed on Russian aluminum giant, Rusal, President of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GBGWU) Lincoln Lewis has said that workers in the local bauxite industry feel abandoned by Government.Lewis told Guyana Times on Tuesday that he too is disappointed by the Government’s response and handling of the issue. He feels they have been dragging their feet on plans to prepare for this impeding closure of the company, due to the issues on the international market.“I get the impression that the issue that affect workers, that the Government does not want to address them and the union will be forced to take some course of action,” he said. Lewis did not divulge any further details to say what type of action the Union and its members hope to take.Nevertheless, the Union’s President said to date, the Government of Guyana hasNatural Resources Minister Raphael Trotmannever made any attempts to put the task force they had established, to work fully. “They feel like they are being abandoned by the whole political office,” Lewis said of the workers’ feelings on the ground.He made reference to Government putting the interim report produced by the task force on pause. This in effect, he said, will do nothing, as it implements a wait-and-see approach. He said it also gives Government more time to promise to look for a replacement for Rusal again.The veteran trade unionist argued that workers’ rights and respecting of the law cannot be put into remission. “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,” he observed.But Lewis said many foreign companies come here and determine what happens in contravention of local laws. He said while the Government has the responsibility to ensure that the laws are activated, and people are fully protected, they have not been delivering.InterventionMeanwhile, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman has responded to Lewis’ issue, stating that his Ministry will continue to work to ensure that bauxite is mined and shipped so that workers and their families, and by extension, the national economy, can benefit.“By no means are we pushing aside the rights of workers and the legacy issues which remain, but at this time, our efforts are understandably focused on keeping the production going. Our sister Ministry, the Ministry of Social Protection, hasGBGWU President Lincoln Lewisbeen charged by the President, and directed by the Cabinet, to address the ongoing labour issues.”Only last month, Lewis told Guyana Times that the task force was inactive, while raising concerns that the team should have been actively engaged in intense discussions with bauxite workers, particularly those who are likely to be affected by the US sanctions.The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) levied sanctions upon Rusal on April 6, citing its alleged interference in the Governments of several countries, including allegedly meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.Rusal was among several organisations named under the sanctions. However, the impact upon Rusal and the wider aluminium trade has been significant.As one of the world’s most prolific providers of alumina, sanctions on Rusal have threatened vital supplies of the substance to a market that was already reeling from the partial shut-down of an alumina refinery in Brazil.The threat of sanctions has also sent many of Rusal’s customers scrambling for different, potentially more reliable sources of aluminium and alumina. Even if sanctions are lifted later this year, many experts warn that Rusal will continue to suffer the effects.Rusal employs over 500 persons at its local operations. The company owns 90 per cent of the Aroaima, Berbice-based Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI). The company’s operations are located on the Berbice River between Kwakwani and Linden, with residents from those areas making up the majority of its workforce.last_img read more