The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has rejected the meagre one per cent wage hike offered by Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
The Union on Thursday rejected the proposal after engaging in discussions with hundreds of sugar workers at the various Estates. The workers collectively cited that they could not accept such a paltry increase from the GuySuCo, especially after being denied increases in almost five years to date.
According to the GAWU, during discussions between its representatives and those of the sugar company on Wednesday, the Union informed that it could not see “completely eye-to-eye” with the offer that the Sugar Corporation made.
“Our response took account of the consultative engagements with the sugar workers of Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt Estates. Bearing in mind that the discussions are still on-going, we do believe it is prudent to disclose where the parties have convergent and divergent views,” a statement from GAWU on Thursday said.
The Union contended that there are some fundamental issues which must be “borne in mind” and considered favourably.
It pointed out that thousands of sugar workers do not want to be exploited and that their situations should not be used to their disadvantage.
“They urged that a settlement should not come at any expense. They recognised and are convinced that their consistent struggles, which were manifested in several forms since 2015, have finally borne fruit. They are also convinced that they deserve, like all workers, a fair and just rise-in-pay and that is all they simply desire,” GAWU said.
Meanwhile, the GAWU noted that the sugar workers believe that the pay rise offer at this time, less than three weeks from national elections, is another “vote-getting exercise” and they lamented such opportunistic tendencies.
“They have been ignored since 2015, but, it seems they are suddenly important as their and their families votes are now considered pivotal. The engagement concluded with the Corporation’s team undertaking to take the Union’s position into consideration before offering a response. The GAWU and the workers are looking for good sense to prevail and that the workers to be justly rewarded for their dedicated efforts.”
Both the GAWU and GuySuCo will be meeting next week where it is expected that the sugar company will inform its position on the Union’s counter-proposal.
Last week, GuySuCo offered the one per cent increase in wages to workers on the sugar belt – something which they have been calling for over the years.
It came just days after workers staged a picketing exercise outside the Ministry of the Presidency on Tuesday last, calling for pay hikes.
In an earlier statement, GAWU said the day after picketing, an invitation was extended for the Union to meet with GuySuCo officials and during the engagement, the proposal was made.
During the campaign trail leading up to the 2015 Elections, the APNU/AFC coalition promised sugar workers 20 per cent wage hikes together with a “good life”.
But after securing the votes from the sugar belt to get into office, the coalition instead downsized the industry to just three sugar estates, shutting down the Wales, East Demerara (Enmore), Rose Hall and Skeldon factories which resulted in over 7000 sugar workers being placed on the breadline.