Way cleared for RUSAL workers to receive tax-exempted overtime payment
DPI, Guyana, Thursday, November 16, 2017
Ministry of Social Protection’s Labour Department on Thursday hosted a meeting with members of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union (GB&GWU) and representatives of RUSAL Guyana in order to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) crafted by the government.
The MoU was to see workers of the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (RUSAL) receive payments of income tax deducted from their overtime wages, in November.
However, after discussions between the Minister within the Social Protection Ministry, Keith Scott and the representatives of RUSAL Guyana, the MoU was thrown out by the Minister, since RUSAL requested more time to sign the agreement.
Subsequently, the Minister Scott issued a letter to the RUSAL Company demanding the effective release of payments to the employees under the company’s employ since October 1, 2016.
According to Minister Scott, the Government issued the MoU in 2016 and it was signed by all parties expect the RUSAL company, severely affecting workers of the company. The minister opined that after months of deliberations the RUSAL employees deserve to be paid.
“They (RUSAL Reps) left agreeing on the principle is correct and hopefully within a couple of days, they will start to affect the principle after making further consultations with their Director…But we can safely say the workers will be given their November money,” Scott revealed.
Following the meeting, General Secretary of Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union, Lincoln Lewis explained that the case has been ongoing for a while, and he is gratified to see the government playing a pivotal role in ensuring justice is served to the workers.
“The comments from the Minister speak to the responsibility of the Government of Guyana. I believe they (the government) have sent a signal to one investor that considers itself a large investor; that the race has come to an end and they will have to respect the law and people’s rights,” Lewis said.
He added, “I am encouraged and the union is appreciative of the final position where the minister has given an order.”
Meanwhile, representative of RUSAL Guyana, Vladimuir Pertuyakou stated that he believes the meeting was a constructive one. He noted said that his team understands the position and concerns of the Social Protection Ministry and hopes the matter will be resolved in a timely manner.
“We explained our position and despite small technical differences, we are going in the right direction. Our company was promoting a new waiver on overtax pay for our workers. I think soon we shall settle this very issue,” Pertuyakou said.
In January 2017, a group of employees representing the workers of RUSAL Guyana met with the central executive of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) in Linden and expressed the need for the matter concerning their tax-free overtime payment to be dealt with urgently. Also present at the meeting were representatives from the Labour Department of the Ministry of Social Protection, President of the GB&GWU, Leslie Gonsalves. After hours of deliberations, both parties agreed that the matter needs to be dealt with but in a manner that will not affect the progress already made.
Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman at a bauxite centennial symposium in October, revealed that when all the legal issues have been cleared up, the workers will be paid retroactively. He also made it clear that his Government will not allow foreign companies to disrespect the laws of Guyana and the workers that serve them.
By: Crystal Stoll
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