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The drama of Rusal Friguia workers in Guinea

11 April, 2013Locked-out workers at the Friguia aluminium plant of Russian-based multinational Rusal have been picketing with their families in front of the local authorities’ offices for several days, calling for a reopening of the plant.

Management vindictively responded to a workers’ strike action one year ago by forcibly halting production, leaving 1,030 permanent employees and 2,000 outsourced workers without pay since April 2012. Three of the IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Guinea, mining federations of CNTG, USTG, and ONSLG national centres, organize the Rusal Friguia workers.

Since 2011, the Rusal Friguia management had refused to engage in collective bargaining with union representatives pretexting the difficult economic situation of the company. Management aggressively followed a tactic of intimidation and provocation of plant-level trade union representatives and workers. On 4 April 2012 Rusal Friguia’s workers launched a strike in protest of the management intransigence. Rusal Friguia immediately suspended its operations in the cities of Fria and Conakry, locking-out workers. In parallel, Rusal pressured the local Labour Court to declare the strike illegal. 

Government-arbitrated negotiations resulted in June 2012 in Rusal Friguia workers agreeing to lift the strike. But Rusal refused to end the lockout until unions accepted responsibility for the company losses during the strike, to which clearly workers refused.

What subsequently became apparent was the Rusal ambition to exploit the rich bauxite deposit called Dian Dian. In negotiations with the Guinean government, Rusal evidently demanded exclusive access to Dian Dian as a condition to reopening its Friguia operations.

Finally, early 2013, Rusal was awarded the contract to operate Dian Dian. The government announced publicly the imminent reopening of the plant in Fria. But as of today the situation remains unchanged.

The government provided financial compensation to workers for the last three months of 2012. But before that date, and since January 2013, workers have not received any income, many of them having to sell their belongings to survive. Workers are not the only ones affected by the crisis, with them the 120,000 inhabitants of Fria, living mainly thanks to the Friguia plant are plunged into a precarious situation.

IndustriALL denounces the plight of Rusal Friguia’s workers and residents of Fria and joins its affiliates in Guinea in calling for a quick and fair industrial settlement.