Sugar production slumps to 25-year low

…”Grave miscalculation” by top management – GAWU

Sugar production has slumped to its lowest in 25 years, and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), while criticising the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (GuySuCo) management for the state of the industry, has pointed out this is no justification for the non-payment of Annual Production Incentive (API).guyana-sugar-production

This was disclosed at GAWU’s end of year briefing where it was noted that 2016 was “a dismal year” which included many setbacks that affected the workers.

GAWU’s General Secretary Seepaul Narine told the media that while production reached over 200,000 tonnes in 2015, this year’s numbers were the lowest since 1990.

“Instead of sugar production continuing to climb from a high of 231,000 tonnes in 2015, it slumped to 183,652 tonnes,” Narine disclosed.

He explained that problems in the sugar sector where heightened when the second crop took 18 weeks to complete, which is five weeks beyond its original stipulated timeframe of 13 weeks.

Narine further pointed out that the 183,652 tonnes was a far cry from set target of 242,000 tonnes, which was affected by El Niño earlier this year.

“Clearly there was a grave miscalculation by the industry’s top management and this requires a full examination given the context of Government’s inputs and various interferences,” the General Secretary said.

However, GAWU stressed that attaining a lower target does not justify Government’s non-payment of the 2016 Annual Production Incentive (API) which spurred protests during this year. Workers had also called for increased wages.

“When you had the lowest production in the industry in 1990 at 129,920 tonnes, workers were awarded five days’ pay and in 2013, when the production had been at a similar level, workers had also been awarded five days’ pay,” Narine pointed out.

Alluding to the progress of the Labour Ministry’s interventions for conciliation talks between GuySuCo and the unions over workers’ API, Narine revealed that the matter was declared deadlocked.

November 2016 was the first time in 64 years that API was not awarded to sugar workers. Additionally, in a statement issued by GAWU on Friday morning, it was noted that the non-payment of wage increases for 2015 and 2016 represented yet “another blow” to livelihood of over 18,000 workers across the sugar belt.

“No Government, since our political independence in 1966, has ever been so unfair to sugar workers,” the statement noted.

Other key issues the Union highlighted were sacking of 11 Demerara Timbers Limited (DTL) workers who were reportedly sacked for picketing at their employer’s head office in October and the denial of paid release by the Sugar Corporation for its workers to attend GAWU’s Congress.

GAWU also lambasted Government’s commitment to collective bargaining in the public service, noting that many concerns surrounding de-bunching and various allowances are still “outstanding”.

“Collective bargaining is but empty talk and trade unions are simply side-lined,” pointed out.

Reflecting on the surprise 2017 National Budget that was approved earlier this month, GAWU is of the belief that some of the its imminent measures, especially through the categorised implementation of the Value Added Tax (VAT) on water and electricity, will only bring “great hardships” on the country’s “overburdened” working class. The Union while extending New Year’s greetings to all Guyanese cautioned that “hard times” are ahead for the country’s working class.