Ministry confirms joint bargaining policy at JISCO/Alpart

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

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THE Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) has confirmed the recognition of three leading trade unions as joint bargaining partners for the staff of the JISCO/Alpart plant in Nain, St Elizabeth.

The ministry last week acknowledged receipt of a letter from the company to the minister, Shahine Robinson, indicating its decision to voluntarily recognise the three unions — Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, National Workers Union, and the Union of Clerical, Administrative and Supervisory Employees — as joint bargaining partners at the Alpart plant.

The ministry had written to the unions seeking to confirm their acceptance of the proposal from JISCO/Alpart for the company's voluntary recognition of their presence. The unions have since responded, confirming their agreement with the proposal and their intention to work jointly in representing the workers .

JISCO made the suggestion in January, fearing that a growing rivalry between the unions for bargaining rights on behalf of more than 800 employees at the plant could lead to an unstable industrial relations climate, and setback the Chinese parent company's efforts to have the plant in full production mode as soon as possible.

JISCO (Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company Limited) signed an agreement in July 2016 with UC Rusal for the transfer of ownership of Alpart. JISCO plans to invest more than US$3 billion to undertake the development of the Nain plant, where it now operates a refinery which had been closed for close to nine years under UC Rusal's ownership. In addition, JISCO plans to invest another US$3 billion in the Jamaican economy to generate approximately 60,000 jobs, including the development of a special economic zone (SEZ), all of which were expected to have started in January and roll out over the next two to eight years.

However, ground has not yet been broken for the project. A framework agreement for the undertaking was signed in February last year by minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Mike Henry. The industrial park and SEZ will focus mainly on fabrication, processing and assembly for export.

In the meantime, chairman of JISCO, Chuming Chen, who had taken a lot of interest in the developments in Jamaica, has left the post and there has been no statement from the company as to whether the plans are still on track.

Chairman of the Jamaica Bauxite Mining Limited, Ambassador Clifton Stone, told the Jamaica Observer that although he was aware of the change in leadership at the company, he was not aware of any changes in the investment plans for the Nain area.

However, JISCO has insisted that the next 24 months of the operations at Alpart are “a particularly sensitive period” for the investment.


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