Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
The Government of Guyana is once again being called on to address the closure of the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) in a similar manner it has moved to address the closure of sugar estates. The felt need of the Government to continue to subsidise the beleaguered Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) should be no different for the sustainable BCGI. Whereas the Minister of Agriculture has likened subsidising GuySuCo to the United States (U.S) Government financial intervention in the motor industry because it created employment for a large section of the population, the same is true for bauxite.
Comparatively if the government recognises the need to save a failing industry why is the same not applicable to BCGI (bauxite) which still maintains profitably on the world market whereas sugar is not. Guyana’s bauxite is a sweetener. Our bauxite is used to improve the efficiency and productivity of aluminum and steel plants. There is a special demand for Guyana’s bauxite, the type of which can only be sourced in Brazil.
BCGI was closed by foreign management (RUSAL) who refused to respect the Laws of Guyana and the rights of Guyanese workers. Workers are out of a job suffering as much as the sugar workers. And where the argument is about the welfare of the sugar workers this argument is equally applicable to the bauxite workers. GuySuCo 7000 laid off workers is no different than BCGI’s 400 because the communities where these workers reside are equally affected.
Both sugar and bauxite have been historical economic pillars that give significant support to the nation and communities where they exist. In the instance of BCGI, Regions Six and Ten are highly dependent on the bauxite workers. The motor industry that was saved-through a repayable stimulus that was repaid in record time- was seen as a proud symbol of U.S manufacturing. In this regard bauxite is second place to no other industry.
The U.S government has also released stimulus to small businesses in order to protect the owners, workers and communities that rely on them. Thus, if the argument is made that BCGI is relatively smaller in the number of workers employed, the argument should not ignore the U.S government saved both big and small businesses. And whereas the U.S government intervention was the result of national economic crises (the Great Recession and COVID-19 pandemic), in GuySuCo’s case the intervention is the cause of sugar production cost outweighing revenue intake (non-viability). Bauxite is a viable product with a mismanaged company (BCGI) whose closure is being viewed with a high degree of suspicion.
Both GuySuCo and BCGI are state-owned, albeit the latter is partly so. The Government is not inhibited from acting to protect the jobs of both bauxite and sugar workers. BCGI workers need economic relief and support. Their communities are being adversely impacted. The government is being called on to provide some form of amelioration to those workers who have not been able to find work in the COVID-19 environment.
BCGI continues to have a fully staffed security department, and skeletal staff overseeing its crushing and drying plants, the heavy-duty maintenance department, and the power and water plants. Moreso, the RUSAL management has made it clear in the international community that it has mothball its operation in Guyana but at no point said they are prepared to sell their shares. It is shame for any Guyanese government, with part ownership in a company, proclaiming to have the interest of Guyanese at heart to allow the bauxite workers to suffer. Where is the royal indignation? Where is the collective response, where is the collective concern rallying support around the bauxite workers?
The workers of BCGI who stood up to foreign management for transgressing their rights epitomised the spirit and resilience of Guyanese labour. They are not unlike their predecessors, except in their peaceful attempt to resolve their grievances. They stood up to successive employers under successive governments against disregard, disrespect and exploitation. They have demonstrated patriotism standing in the way of those who wanted to disrespect the Government, People and Laws of Guyana. All Guyana should be rallying behind them to ensure they are fairly treated by the Government that remains seemingly unbothered by their circumstances.