The People’s United and General Workers Union (PU&GWU), the union representing workers of the German company, Oldendorff Carriers Guyana Inc., met with the Ministry of Natural Resources today to discuss a proposed payment package for workers who are likely to lose their jobs as a result of US sanctions against aluminum giant RUSAL. In a press release, the PU&GWU explained that Ministry has committed itself to an amicable solution for the workers.
“The People’s United and General Workers Union (PU&GWU) will submit to the Ministry of Natural Resources before the week is out a proposed payment package for Olendorff Carriers Guyana Inc. workers who are likely to lose their jobs as a result of the US sanctions against Russian Aluminium (RUSAL).
During a meeting with Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman, junior Natural Resource Minister, Simona Broomes and union representatives this afternoon, commitment was given by the government representatives to support reasonable benefits for the Olendorff workers.
The Ministry explained that Olendorff had related that it would be closing its operations by June 5 if no major change had occurred in relation to the US sanctions.
The Ministry informed that Olendorff has also declared their intention to pay the workers their severances.
This however has promoted the union to express its concerns over those possible payments. The PU&GWU informed the Natural Resource Ministers that since acquiring legal status to represent Olendorff workers in November of 2015, the company has failed to commit to a wages and salary agreement and has continued to impose same on workers. We informed the ministry that Olendorff had also taken two years before they recognized the union as the workers’ representative. The union had sought the support of the last administration and the current, to hold Olendorff responsible but did not receive it.
Our agreement spoke to possible closure of the business where they would have been required to open an account to place workers payments before they left. The agreement also involved the company not being able to move any of its assets until workers were paid off.
However, without this collective agreement, workers stand to get very little despite their years of service to a company that has been operating in Guyana for some 13 years. The severance pay, legal requirements point to minimal benefits which the union believes is unacceptable for the workers who faced many challenges under this company.
The PU&GWU will propose the package and the ministry has promised their support, with the engagement of all parties.
The Ministry of Natural Resources also informed the union that there are interested parties who are willing to replace Olendorff. The union has opted to provide the ministry with information regarding the Olendorff workers as we advocate for them receiving first preference amongst these new companies.
Another important point made by the PU&GWU is our concern that for the numerous years Olendorff has been in the country they have constantly recorded a loss. It was mentioned to the minister that some measure should be put in place to address these matters since it is unbelievable that for 13 years this company has been in Guyana and it is making no profit according to financial records uplifted at the Registry. In other countries if after five years a company is making no profit, operations are closed, but Olendorff remained in Guyana. Minister Trotman did promise to take this particular concern to Cabinet.
The Ministry and Olendorff has planned to meet with staffers in Berbice by the weekend.”