Sugar workers protest Granger’s office for wage hike

As a result of several picketing exercises in the past which yielded little to no results, sugar workers have returned again on Tuesday outside of the President’s office calling for a wage increase.

Sugar workers during the peaceful protest

The workers, from Uitvlugt, Blairmont and Albion Sugar Estates, converged to express their dismay over the fact that they are yet to benefit from an increase since 2015 – when the coalition administration took office.
At the protest line, General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Seepaul Narine, stated that he is disappointed with the way the incumbent coalition government is dealing with the issue.
On their campaign trail in 2015, the APNU/AFC had promised sugar workers a 20 per cent annual increase and better benefits once elected into office.
In addition, it had promised that under its tenure, sugar will see even more glorious years ahead.
But sugar workers are now fighting tooth and nail to get a small increase in their salaries.
“You would have known since he took as President up to today, sugar workers have not received a cent increase. Despite they have campaign that they will give 20 per cent increase per year”.

General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union Seepaul Narine

Recently, an estimated 3500 sugar workers from Albion, Blairmont, and Uitvlugt estates signed a petition calling on the President to intervene in a pay hike discussion for sugar workers.
However, the worker’s bargaining agent is contending that there are several credible and rational bases for the Granger Government to assist the workers, but the APNU/AFC has turned their backs and closed their eyes and ears to the cries and calls of the nation’s sugar workers.
“We have tried to address the issues, we have talked to GuySuCo, we have appeal to the President, there has been a petition which was signed by thousands of sugar workers and we sent it to the President, the President then said he sent it to GuySuCo for advice. We are informed that GuySuCo did respond. We write him again and he said he sent it to Minister Holder and we will hear from Minister Holder and it has been a long time now and we have not [heard] a single word from Minister Holder nor has the President said anything to us on this matter.”
President Granger during at a recent meeting related that he understands the suffering and plight of sugar workers and wants the industry to be profitable.
Nevertheless, despite all the sugar-coated talks and speeches now to garner votes at the upcoming elections slated for March 2, the sugar workers are of the belief that this is a clear indication of the glaring lack of concern the President has for the sugar workers and the industry at large.
“We are moved by his sentiments that he understands the sufferings and the plight and the hurt of sugar workers, maybe he is campaigning against what he himself had done as President to close the industry and put people out of work, so if he cares so much, why is he failing to address the issue?”

The workers at the picketing exercise outlined the fact that they are in dire need of an increase since cost-of-living rose astronomically. The Bureau of Statistics had revealed that the cost of food rose by nearly 18 per cent between December 2015 and October 2019.
“Since 2014, the last when sugar workers would have received a [salary increase] and since then to now, we did not receive a single cent and it is very hard for sugar workers at the present moment because cost-of-living has gone up skyrocketing and, therefore, it is very difficult for people cope,” Singh added.
Another worker, Lochan Khandai, who is employed at the Uitvlugt estate, echoed the same sentiments that the cost-of-living has risen.
“You [work] for $2040 a day since 2014 we get that increase on to today, we in get nothing; how these people going cope? Every day you go in the shop a $20 let we go simple, with transportation we used to pay $60 dollars for a short drop now it is $100,” Khandai stated.
There has been a stagnancy in wages in the sugar belt for over four years. The last increase in pay was in 2014. The sugar workers and the GAWU noted that they are disappointed but would continue the struggle to ensure fairness, equity and justice are served.