(NEWS ROOM) — The Working People’s Alliance (WPA), a member of the governing coalition, is calling on the Russian Aluminum (RUSAL) company to rehire sixty-one workers who were fired last week.
The employees were fired by the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI), a subsidiary of RUSAL, after they embarked on industrial action to protest a unilateral 1% increase in their salaries.
The workers are demanding a 15% increase but the company claims that it cannot afford the amount and the proposed 1% is in keeping with Guyana’s inflation rate.
In a statement on Wednesday, the WPA said it “stands in solidarity with the dismissed workers and demand that they be reinstated.”
However, the WPA noted that the actions of RUSAL should not be seen as an isolated matter as the company has over the years showed itself to be “anti-workers’ rights and consistently challenging the sovereignty of our country.”
The political party referred to the dismissal of 59 workers in 2009, the threatening of workers at the company’s work site, and the refusal of the company to engage the union representing workers.
The workers are represented by the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union (GB&GWU).
As such, the WPA expressed its belief that RUSAL should no longer be allowed to continue to function since it operates in contravention of the constitution of Guyana and laws which protect workers’ rights.
“Allowing RUSAL to continue in the manner that it has functioned will signal to other foreign direct investors our inability to adequately respond to such blatant disrespect of our laws giving them the belief and view that they too can come here and take advantage of our citizens without fear of being sanctioned,” the party said in its statement.
The WPA urged the Government to take action to protect the workers affected.
Representatives of RUSAL on Tuesday met with the Minister responsible for Labour, Keith Scott and other officials to address the issues faced.
While the Government did not make a statement following the meeting, RUSAL’s representative, Vladimir Permyakov told the media that the workers were dismissed for not showing up to work even after meetings with management –action which he said breaches their contractual agreement.
Permyakov said he hopes there is a solution soon as the company had previously threatened to shut down its operations if the situation persists. However, he did not state whether the solution will include rehiring the workers.