Even as the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is being encouraged to engage in “good-faith negotiations” to find a “reasonable settlement” to workers’ pay increase demands, sugar workers are excluded and “are seemingly being deemed as second-class citizens”.
This is according to the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), which noted on Monday that workers across the sugar belt have taken strike action in an effort to reiterate calls for GuySuCo to employ “good-faith bargaining” to improve pay and work conditions.
GAWU further explained that at a meeting held Thursday last with the State-owned entity, queries were made whether provisions would be made for pay increases.
However, GAWU noted that GuySuCo’s representative informed that “none had been made, but adjustments could be made to facilitate an increase”.
The Union reasoned that the Sugar Corporation was “once again seeking to deny a pay rise for 2016”, noting that sugar workers were disallowed 2015 and 2016 pay increases, which were awarded other State workers.
“The sugar workers have been excluded and are seemingly being deemed as ‘second class citizens’. It can be safe to say that the standard of living of the sugar workers and their families have deteriorated in the face of the rising cost-of-living. We remind that the Ministry of Finance’s 2016 Mid-Year Report pointed out that food prices rose by 3.2 per cent in the first half of this year,” GAWU expressed.
The Union stressed too that these moves by the State entity had a “debilitating effect on morale and commitment in the industry”, which were vital for the industry’s turnaround.
The workers on Monday, once again, used the opportunity to express their opposition to the closure of Wales Estate, and the lack of several incentives which they felt they were owed.
“Workers also raised their voices against…GuySuCo’s denial of paid-release for workers to attend the Union’s Congress and Union meetings; the denying of workers to attend Union-sponsored courses during the cropping periods; the denial of transportation assistance for workers to attend Union activities; the withdrawal of pro-rated Weekly Production Incentive (WPI) awards; the denial of collective bargaining in 2015; a pitiful 2015 [Annual Production Incentive] API award, among other things,” the Union stressed.
“At this time, GAWU urges continuing dialogue will be necessary to address the other concerns of the workers. The current approach is not helpful to the process and can very well lead to greater disharmony and discontent among the workers and we implore the Corporation and those who give direction to quickly abandon this course,” the Union added. Over the last several months, a series of protest actions have ensued over many of the decisions undertaken by GuySuCo. However, the entity has long decried its cash-strapped status, which was late last year singled out by President David Granger.
In his recent address to Parliament , in the absence of the political Opposition, the Guyanese Head of State stated that Government was forced to divert money from economic and social programmes to “rescue the ailing corporation” with an immediate injection of $12 billion last year and an additional $11 billion in 2016, a $23 billion bailout in 18 months.
“These transfers exclude the servicing of GuySuCo’s debts in respect of the Skeldon Estate Modernisation Project – a monstrous and monumental US$200 million mistake and, probably, Guyana’s single most costly industrial catastrophe of all time,” he had noted.