Goldfields refuses to meet with “unrecognised” unions

first_img…denies claims of unilaterally transferring contract workersDenying claims made by the National Mine Workers Union (NMWU) that workers’ severance benefits are in jeopardy, Guyana Goldfields official Peter Benny has said that the fact that the union is not recognised as his company’s employees’ union makes it impossible to meet the body.In an interview with Guyana Times, Benny acknowledged receiving requests from NMWU President Sherwyn Downer for a meeting. But, according to Benny, Guyana Goldfields cannot meet to discuss workers’ concerns with a union that has not gone through the process and received recognition as the workers’ union.“We do not stop our employees from unionising. That’s far from the truth. We allow them, we’ve never stopped them. However, a couple of years ago (Downer) made a claim at the Ministry of Labour that he was a representative of employees at Aurora.“The Ministry organised for us to go and give them our records. The company submitted all of its records and he was supposed to submit the signed membership forms. And he was unable to do so. He is not a bona fide representative of the workers. I cannot go discussing company business with him. If I am to do that, I would be breaching every possible code of practice,” the Human Resources Manager noted.Benny denied that Guyana Goldfields has been trying to transfer permanent employees to contracts, thus depriving them of their severance pay benefits. According to Benny, contract or temporary workers comprise a minuscule part of the workforce and there were no plans to add permanent workers to the mix. He also defended the grievance committee.“We would not do that. We’ve never done that in the past and we will not do that in the future. There is no plan to put permanent employees on contract. I know about the law as much as anybody else. I would not be working for a company that breaks the law,” Benny stressed.“The grievance committee is chaired by an employee. The grievance committee functions and is effective.”Meanwhile, when asked, Downer admitted that he did make previous efforts to have his union registered and recognised as representatives of workers from Aurora. But he noted that they experienced difficulty with the signed workers’ forms and as a consequence, the application process was aborted.“At this stage and point, I’m not asking the company to recognise the union…. I’m asking based on the email and allegations against the company by the workers to the union (for a meeting),” he stated.“At this time all the union is asking or requesting is an opportunity to and/or permission to meet with the workers … and let’s put all this to rest and let’s hear from the workers directly if they need a union or not … the media could be invited to witness it all.”This publication had previously reported Downer saying that workers from Guyana Goldfields have complained that they stand to lose their severance benefits, something they are entitled to by law, and that no one is hearing their concerns.“We have hundreds of workers who would have been working with the company since exploration days. So they have more than a decade of experience. The allegation against the company is that they are now taking steps to have these workers go on contract,” Downer had said.“These workers are going to lose their severance and their benefits. So what they want right now is attention to this issue. I wrote the company on the 10th of this month and they have not acknowledged my letter or said anything.”Downer also pointed out that workers reached out to his union, even though it is not the recognised representative of the workers, rather than the Labour Department. This, he said, would indicate a lack of faith in the Government taking action. According to Downer, workers complained that they also lacked faith in the grievance committee set up by the company.NMWU President Sherwyn DownerGuyana Goldfields Human Resources Manager Peter Bennylast_img

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