Unions to discuss JISCO/Alpart's future with company on Monday

Unions to discuss JISCO/Alpart's future with company on Monday

Senior Staff Reporter

Saturday, September 07, 2019

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Trade unions representing employees of the JISCO/Alpart bauxite refinery in St Elizabeth are seeking preferential treatment for their members when the plant reopens.

This follows Tuesday's confirmation by the Ministry of Transport and Mining that the plant will be closed for modernisation and expansion by October.

The ministry said that the upgrade will result in the lay-off of most of the staff at the refinery. However, it says it has had assurance from the owners, Chinese industrial group Jiuquan Iron & Steel Company Limited (JISCO), that it will maintain a minority of the workforce for maintenance, and to assist in the execution of the project, which could last some 18 months.

JISCO told the ministry last Tuesday that it is determined that the plant be prepared to meet its targeted two million tonnes of alumina per annum. The plant currently has a maximum production figure of 1.6 million tonnes per annum, but has fallen to approximately 50 per cent of that figure.

Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague met the three unions representing the workers the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), National Workers Union and Union of Clerical, Administrative and Supervisory Employees prior to issuing the release.

The unions are to meet with the management of the refinery on Monday and, according to BITU President Senator Kavan Gayle, there are a number of issues they wish JISCO to address before the closure.

Senator Gayle said that the union understands the company's need to become more competitive in the alumina market, which led to its decision to close down temporarily and upgrade the plant with new equipment needed for efficiency.

He said that the unions had requested the meeting with the management to get an explanation of the strategies, the action plan and the timeline for completion of the project.

He said that the minister indicated to the unions that he intends to continue dialogue with JISCO/Alpart to protect the welfare of the workers, as well as the livelihood of the surrounding communities.

“We have suggested that we want those discussions to include us, because there are issues that we want to raise with the company,” he added.

Gayle said that, for example, the unions want the small cadre of workers that the company plans to keep on to be rotated, so that as many of the affected workers as possible are given an opportunity to continue earning a living.

“And we want to ensure that when production resumes, all the workers who were laid off will be reabsorbed into the workforce, to assure continuity of employment,” Gayle noted.

He said that in addition, the unions were concerned that some of the workers would have had debts with financial institutions, which they will find difficult to repay while they are unemployed, and would urge the institutions to be lenient dealing with these problems.

Gayle said that the unions also want the company to use the break to address the environmental impact issues, following the necessary consultations and the modernisation and expansion project.

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