Black workers in Guyana struggle against neocolonial State and foreign bosses

Editor’s note: The following is a Press Release submitted to Uhuru News by the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union of a meeting recently held in London, England. The meeting was to highlight the abrogation of worker’s rights to Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining, in an attempt to win international solidarity from the trade unions and organizations present.

Guyana is a small former British Colony on the upper northeastern coast of South America.  It is populated almost equally by Africans (as a result of the slave trade), and Indians who came during the days of British Colonialism in India when the “Sun didn’t set on the British Empire.”  There is also a small part of the population made up of the indigenous people.

Guyana gained infamy in the mid-1970s when more than 900 Africans were murdered by a CIA instigated plot in what was then called the People’s Temple, in Jonestown. Guyana is also the birth place of African patriot, revolutionary, theoretician  and leader, Walter Rodney.

The company that the workers are struggling against is the foreign owned Russian company UC RUSAL, which accounts for 10 percent of the world’s primary aluminum output and 13 percent of the world’s alumina production. UC RUSAL controls mines and production facilities in 19 countries on five continents, despite the fact that Russia doesn’t produce bauxite.

The Working People’s Alliance, founded by Rodney, with the intent of workers seizing power was also represented at the meeting. Rodney, as an organizer in racially diverse Guyana was clear enough to call for black workers power, and unite the other subject and colonial peoples in the correct line of march.

The African Socialist International stands with this struggle against the neocolonialist state and the foreign bosses. ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!


On Wednesday August 18, the GB&GWU in its continued pursuit to ensure the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) and the Government of Guyana respect bauxite workers’ rights to Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining made its case before the Black and Ethnic Advisory Committee of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) in London, United Kingdom.


In the symposium organized by RMT to address this issue, Norman Browne, the Union’s UK representative made a presentation that highlighted the plight of the bauxite workers and the government’s response to the transgressions.


In presenting the Union’s position of the 10 months old dispute, Browne pointed out the evident transgression of Section 23 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Act (1997) which expressly says "When a trade union obtains a certificate of recognition for workers comprised in a bargaining unit in accordance with this Part, the employer shall recognize the union, and the union and the employer shall bargain in good faith and enter into negotiations with each other for the purpose of collective bargaining."


He highlighted the violation of the rights of the 57 workers who were placed on the breadline without due process.


He also apprised the audience of the Minister of Labour’s responsibility under the Labour Laws of Guyana,  Chapter 98:01 Section 4 (1) (a) (b) and (c)  and the concerns of the Union at the tardiness of the Ministry of Labour in resolving the dispute, a dispute that has now become the longest running in the history of Guyana.


Dr Rupert Roopnarine, of the Working Peoples’ Alliance, was another main speaker at the event.  In addressing the gathering, he gave a historical perspective of the development of the trade union movement in Guyana and the political interference that saw a decline in the vibrancy of the Guyana Trades Union Congress and its umbrella unions.


Attendees at the symposium made known their concerns about the deterioration in Guyana and have given the commitment to the Union to stand by it in its struggle for the protection of rights and the upholding of the rule of law. Leaders and representatives from several organizations in the UK were in attendance; among them were Tongarara Danni of the Pan African Voice in London and Kwabena Gyakye of the UK’s branch of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP). 
On Friday August 13, the leadership of the Union, Messrs Leslie Gonsalves and Carlton Sinclair, along with Mr. Norris Witter, General Secretary (ag.), Guyana Trades Union Congress, met with Labour Minister, Mr. Manzoor Nadir.


The parties discussed the impasse. The Minister reaffirmed to the Union that the GB&GWU is still the recognized bargaining agent for workers employ at BCGI.


He also gave his commitment that he is prepared to fulfill the agreement he made on June 18 with the Geneva based International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) to convene meeting between the union and the company with a view to have the issue resolved.


In the meanwhile, the Union continues to take its fight against injustice to every corner of the globe.


It remains steadfast in ensuring that the rights of each and every worker is respected and will not relent until such is achieved. 


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