GOVERNMENT’S SUPPORT FOR RUSAL’S DISRESPECT FOR THE GUYANESE WORKERS AND LAWS IS DISGRACEFUL -- PRESS STATEMENT Thursday 3 December 2009




SUMMARY:
• Unconstitutional Acts By President Causes Bill to Lapse: Illustrates Jagdeo’s Lack of Commitment To Solving Crime;
• Government Seeks To Control and Politicise Lawyers Right to Practice in Guyana;
• PNCR welcomes the Port of Spain Climate Change Consensus;
• Government Support For RUSAL’s Disrespect for the Guyanese Workers And Laws Is Disgraceful
• The PNCR encourages all Guyanese to collect their ID Cards and to use the upcoming Claims and Objections Period to Register.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL ACTS BY PRESIDENT CAUSES BILL TO LAPSE: ILLUSTRATES JAGDEO’S LACK OF COMMITTMENT TO SOLVING CRIME

President Jagdeo has again acted unconstitutionally in respect of a Bill sent to him by the National Assembly of Guyana for his Assent. This unconstitutional act by President Jagdeo, which resulted in the lapsing of the Mutual Assistance In Criminal Matters, Bill No. 4 of 2006, is the reason why the National Assembly will today, once again, be required to Debate an almost identical Bill over three and a half years since it was originally passed by the National Assembly.

This Bill provides for mutual assistance in criminal matters between Guyana and Commonwealth countries, as well as other countries with which Guyana has a Treaty concerning such assistance.

The original Bill had its First Reading in the National Assembly on the 19th day of January 2006 as Bill No 4 of 2006. It was read a Second Time and Debated on the 16th March 2006. At that Sitting, it was Read a Third Time and unanimously passed with one minor amendment.

The Bill was, accordingly, submitted to President Jagdeo for his Assent. Unfortunately, due to the time that has elapsed since then, the President’s failure to give his Assent caused the Bill to lapse.

Article 107(6) of the Constitution of Guyana provides that after the National Assembly passes a Bill the President has to give his assent before it becomes law. Article 107(2) and 107 (3) requires the President to signify that he either Assents to a Bill or withholds his Assent. If the President exercises his right to withhold his Assent then he is required by our Constitution to return the Bill to the Speaker of the National Assembly within 21 days of the date when it is presented to him for Assent with a message stating the reasons why he has withheld his Assent.

The President failed to observe the provisions of the Constitution and the Government unashamedly returns to the National Assembly to correct Jagdeo’s blunders. It is significant that the Administration wasted resources on propaganda during the ‘Roger’ Khan and Robert Simel's trials trying to convince the world that they wanted the cooperation of the US Authorities to obtain information on the revelations being made in a New York Court. Yet, the very PPP/C Administration was guilty of not implementing their own law providing for mutual assistance in criminal matters.

The PNCR is neither surprised nor amused at this recent development. It is unfortunately, the latest illustration of the PPP/C lack of commitment to finding solutions to the crime and security situation in Guyana.

GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO CONTROL AND POLITICISE LAWYERS RIGHT TO PRACTISE IN GUYANA

THE LEGAL PRACTITIONER’S (AMENDMENT) BILL 2009: BILL No45 OF 2009:

The Legal Practitioner’s (Amendment) Bill 2009 represents an attempt, by this Jagdeo Administration to effect a stranglehold on the Legal Profession of Guyana.

It is unfortunate that a Bill as controversial as this was virtually sneaked into the National Assembly by way a Supplementary Order Paper, on Thursday 26 November 2009. The reality is that most MPs were only able to read the Bill last weekend. Of even greater concern is that members of the Legal profession were not given a copy of the Bill as now Tabled, therefore, they have not been able to make their views known or their voices heard.

First of all, there was not enough consultation with the members of the legal profession for the far reaching changes to the existing Legal Practitioner’s Act which is affected by this Amendment.

Secondly, the most important aspect of this legislation is the unconstitutional provision which dictate that an Attorney-at-Law cannot practice his/her profession without first obtaining a Tax Practice Certificate from the Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority.

A Tax Practice Certificate is a requirement under section 39 of the Tax Act. Non compliance with this requirement has its own regime of penalties under the Income Tax Act. However, the present Bill would effectively deny an Attorney-at-Law the right to practice his/her profession in the absence of this Certificate. This is not only tantamount to double jeopardy, but infringes a person’s Constitutional right to work.

Thirdly, it is an effort to undermine the Independence of the Judiciary when the Chancellor of the Judiciary (the head of the Bench) selects the 12 members of the Bar (after consultation with the Bar Association) who shall sit on the Legal Practitioners Committee which is the Disciplinary Committee for the members of the Bar.

PNCR WELCOMES THE PORT OF SPAIN CLIMATE CHANGE CONSENSUS

The PNCR endorses the recognition that Low Lying Coastal States like Guyana are very vulnerable to the impact of Climate Change. Therefore, we are encouraged by the commitment of the just concluded Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, in Trinidad and Tobago, as articulated in the Commonwealth Climate Change Declaration.

As stated in paragraph 8 of that Declaration:
“A global climate change solution is central to the survival of peoples, the promotion of development and facilitation of a global transition to a low carbon development path. The agreement in Copenhagen must address the urgent needs of developing countries by providing financing, support for adaptation, technology transfer, capacity building, approaches and incentives for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and for afforestation and sustainable management of forests.”

Paragraph 12 underscores the need for firm commitments for financing:
“Progress towards predictable and adequate finance for adaptation and mitigation measures must be achieved in any new multilateral approach. Public and private financial resources for developing countries will need to be scaled up urgently and substantially by 2020. We recognise that adaptation finance in particular should be targeted towards the poorest and most vulnerable countries. The provision of finance should be additional to existing official development assistance commitments. In this respect, we acknowledge the potential role of the private sector and carbon markets.”

While we are encouraged by the pronouncements of the Commonwealth Heads and recognise the potential for Guyana to benefit from funding under a REDD+ mechanism, we are deeply concerned that the Jagdeo Administration continues to avoid a credible commitment for the articulation, and presentation for public scrutiny and consideration, of a National Development Strategy which is designed to transform the Guyana economy to a low carbon path while ensuring the social and economic development of the Guyanese people. Such a strategy should be capable of achieving a national consensus and ownership by all the people of Guyana.

Given the experiences of the last decade of the Jagdeo kleptocracy, the Party insists that any funds for Guyana from the REDD+ initiative must be managed under a mechanism of strict accountability and transparency. All funds must be deposited in the Consolidated Fund and accessed under the authorisation of the National Assembly.

GOVERNMENT’S SUPPORT FOR RUSAL’S DISRESPECT FOR THE GUYANESE WORKERS AND LAWS IS DISGRACEFUL

The PPP/C Government’s anti- working class position has been manifested in its unbridled support for RUSAL’s hostility and disrespect of the bauxite workers in their employ, and for our laws.

The Minister of Labour, whose remit in matters of industrial disputes is that of an impartial mediator, has openly sided with the foreign company by criticising the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (G.B. & G.W.U) for agreeing to the termination of 75 workers, as alleged by RUSAL, but denied by the Union.

Moreover, the long serving Chief Labour Officer, Mr. Mohamed Akeel, who only recently, in June 2009, mediated in the dispute concerning poor Occupational Health and Safety standards in RUSAL, on behalf of the Government, is now in employ of RUSAL as its adviser on labour matters and presumably the chief adviser on current tactics by RUSAL against their workers.

The Collective Labour Agreement (C.L.A.) between RUSAL and the G.B. & G.W.U is legal and binding on them and is of a 3 years duration, beginning from 1st January 2008 and ending on the 31st December 2010. Article 46 of the C.L.A., does not prevent the workers of RUSAL from exercising their constitutional right to strike as is claimed by the Company since article 46 (2) provides:

“In the event of any actions such as strikes, go-slows, picketing or lockouts or any actions that will interfere with the Company’s operations ……the company …… the Union shall as matter of urgency expeditiously seek to have the situation return to normalcy.”

RUSAL, in breach of our labour laws, wrongfully sued the officers of the G.B. & G.W.U. in their personal capacities instead of suing the Union as is required by law, as a result of the industrial dispute in June 2009. RUSAL’s claims that the Union is breaching the terms of the C.L.A. are, therefore, mischievous and malicious and are designed to obfuscate, the Company’s own intransigence and disrespect for the C.L.A., and the workers.

In current wages impasse, RUSAL proposed three options to the G.B. & G.W.U namely:

(i) A 10% increase in salaries from 1st January 2009, together with a 14% reduction in the workforce
(ii) A 10% increase in wages from 1st January 2009 with a reduction of shift hours from 12 to 8 hours per day.
(iii) A lump sum payment of Annual Safety Bonus tax 31st December 2009.

During negotiations, RUSAL submitted a Memorandum of Agreement that altered the first option by proposing to pay 10% across the board for 2009; in other words, a one off payment to the workers.

The G.B. & G.W.U had indicated its interest in the option of a 10% increase in salary from 1st January 2009 only and not the proposal to reduce the workforce. Moreover, RUSAL proposed paying any retroactive payment, in installments instead of a lump sum, i.e.

(i) Payment for 1st January 2009 – 31st May 2009, to be made on 31st January 2010;
(ii) Payment for 1st June 2009 to 30th November 2009, on 31st March 2010; and
(iii) Payment for December 2009, in December 2009.

In effect, RUSAL proposed paying it workers only one-month back pay for the entire 2009 when normal industrial relations practice, is to pay one lump sum for the entire year in question.

The bauxite workers when consulted by their union did not agree with RUSAL’s proposals and downed tools. The G.B. & G.W.U. thereupon wrote RUSAL informing its management that it sanctioned the strike, and would not sign the Memorandum of Agreement.

On Sunday 22 November 2009, on the same day that the workers had taken strike action, RUSAL sent letters of suspension to 58 workers.

On Thursday November 24, 2009, talks of resumption began at Aroaima with the Chief Labour Officer of the Ministry of Labour in attendance.

While these talks were in progress, RUSAL, in a further act of bad faith, served Letters of Termination on the suspended workers thus forcing the Union to break off the talks.

At all material times, RUSAL has been threatening the Union, to close down its operations, and that the Union would have to bear responsibility for any such eventuality. RUSAL has shown a propensity to confront the workers and their representatives rather than to engage them. By letter, dated the 1 December 2009, RUSAL arbitrarily purported to unilaterally, unlawfully and in breach of the C.L.A., Laws of Guyana, terminate the C.L.A. between RUSAL and G.B. & G.W.U. with immediate effect. RUSAL, in the said letter, accused the Union of breaching Article 46 of the C.L.A., which breach they claimed amounted to a repudiation that the Company accepted. In the said letter, RUSAL also threatened to derecognise the G.B. & G.W.U.

Section 28A of the Labour (Amendment) Act No. 9 of 1984 makes a C.L.A., a legally binding and enforceable contract by and against the Parties to it. Article 51 of the C.L.A., provides for the manner in which it will terminate before the expiry of the aforementioned 3 years duration, namely: -

(i) Where all or most of the assets of RUSAL used directly in bauxite mining, processing, etc. and sold, or leased, etc, and
(ii) Where a third party requires control over 50% or more of RUSAL’s share capital.

There is, therefore, no provision in the C.L.A. for termination of it by either party in the manner, adopted by RUSAL. At its highest, article 46 must be seen as ambiguous as it means different things to RUSAL and the G.B. & G.W.U. It cannot, therefore, oust the constitutional guarantee to the worker of the right to strike, unless it was in the clearest and unambiguous language.

RUSAL cannot by itself derecognise the G.B.& G.W.U, since recognition or non-recognition is in the province of the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board established under the Trade Union Recognition act No. 33 of 1997.

The PNCR, therefore, calls on RUSAL and the PPP/C Government to honour the C.L.A. and the laws of Guyana and to adopt proper industrial relations practices, and to reinstate the dismissed workers. We encourage the workers to resolutely pursue their just struggle in solidarity.

SOLIDARITY FOREVER – FOR THE UNION MAKES US STRONG!

THE PNCR ENCOURAGES ALL GUYANESE TO COLLECT THEIR ID CARDS AND TO USE THE UPCOMING CLAIMS AND OBJECTIONS PERIOD TO REGISTER

The distribution of National Identification Cards has commenced in all the Administrative Regions and it is absolutely necessary for persons who have registered during the last House-to-House Registration exercise to uplift their National Identification Card. Identification cards are extremely important and the PNCR, therefore, urges all Guyanese to uplift same. We also encourage all Guyanese who have not been registered due to a lack of source documents or other reasons to use the upcoming Claims and Objections Period to register.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday 3 December 2009