Former Insider, Contributor
I take strong exception to the content of the full-page advertisement that Rusal published in The Sunday Gleaner of August 26, 2012, which was nothing short of public relations gimmickry. I am not objecting to the advertising strategy, but the dishonesty of the contents.
First, the claim that Rusal brings its "technological knowledge and in-depth managerial skills which enhance the local industry standards and raise them to the highest international level" is laughable. Rusal cannot boast of a single improvement project in which it has invested in Jamaica.
The management skills of Aljam, managed by Alcan, and later Glencore, were renowned in the industry: 99 per cent of managers were locally sourced and fully empowered; now most of the managers are from Russia.
Prior to Rusal, Windalco was International Organisation for Standard (ISO) and International Safety Rating System (ISRS) certified. These are (Western) First World benchmarks of performance in industry. What are the new international standard certifications that the plants have gained since Rusal? In fact, it is no longer ISO or ISRS certified. This does not seem to be lifting the plant to international standards.
With all the claims of high standards introduced at Ewarton, the increased frequency of industrial spillage into the environment has arisen alarmingly, with no clear-cut containment policy. In fact, the only time in history the company was taken to the local courts for environmental violation was under the management of Rusal. The verdict: guilty.
Rusal did not refurbish the Ewarton plant, as it claimed in its reopening in 2010. Nor did it introduce any new bauxite transportation and extraction systems. Rusal spent money to de-mothball the plant and benefited from the new bauxite haul road project that was started by the previous owner, Glencore.
An incorrect impression can be drawn based on how the advertisement was written. It compared 2010 production output with that of 2011, to depict some great improvement in Ewarton's history.
The fact is that from 2009 to early 2010, the Ewarton alumina plant was forced to reduce its production by 50 per cent. It was totally shut down in 2010 after workers demanded full redundancy payment and expressed no desire to continue working with Rusal.
In 2011, the Ewarton plant was fully reopened, with no restrictions, so it is unfair to make a comparison with the previous year when the plant was mostly closed. A fairer comparison would be 2008, 2007 or 2006. The plant has reached nowhere near the comparative levels of efficiency and productivity as in those prior years, when it was mostly locally managed then.
MORE HANDS, LESS WORK
Rusal's claim of creating new jobs may be correct. But this a clear indication of management inefficiency, as fewer persons operated the plant previously and produced more and at a higher level of efficiency. There were only four managers stationed at Ewarton running the operation in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and they were all Jamaicans.
Is it worth bragging rights when the Rusal employment arrangement of two-year contracts for all employees, except the Russians, has denied workers the right for collective bargaining (as the company can fire any employee at will, without any backlash from a union)?
Mr Editor, clearly, this is an advertisement stacked with falsehood. But then again, what does Yakov Itskov know about the history of the Jamaican alumina industry to write about it?
Despite the PR smokescreen, Rusal was bad for Jamaica, is bad for Jamaica, and will be bad for Jamaica. Our alumina industry will not get any better. Rusal has no appreciation for modern industrial practices and ethics in a free world.
'Former Insider' is a concerned resident of Ewarton and retired employee of Ewarton Works. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.