The non-consultative approach taken by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) regarding the severance payment for Wales sugar workers is reminiscent of the struggles associated with the Enmore workers in June 1948.
This was the view of Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) General Secretary Lincoln Lewis in an interview with Guyana Times on the observance of Enmore Martrys Day Thursday.
“The struggle of ‘48 has been on the question of rights – right to choose, right to a union of your choice – there were a number of issues all bordered on rights [and] cut and load was the issue that brought them to fore, the point here now is how GuySuCo treats the [rights of workers],” he noted.
Lincoln referenced the laws and conventions as stipulated in Chapter 23:01 of the Trade Unions Recognition laws which speak to how an employer must deal with unions and workers.
“When a trade union has been given recognition, the employer has to deal with that trade union in good faith; in their case (GuySuCo), they are not prepared to talk to the trade union on the whole question of redundancy – they are in breach of the law and what we are having is a repeat of what took place in 1948,” the veteran trade unionist emphasised.
He reiterated that the only way the well-being of workers could improve was if the requisite laws were respected. “We have to respect laws and conventions; these are the things that are premised on which good governance has been built.”
Earlier this year, the General Secretary disclosed that the closure of the Wales Estate was an “injustice” and had called on Government to engage in dialogue with the parliamentary Opposition on the matter. At a solidarity protest at Belle West, West Bank Demerara, Lewis told the gathering that the rights of workers were at stake.
The plight of sugar workers was highlighted in a statement that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) issued on Tuesday in memory of the five sugar workers who were gunned down by colonial Police in British Guiana on June 16, 1948. The workers who died were later known as the Enmore Martyrs: Lallabaggie and Dookie from Enmore, East Coast Demerara (ECD) and Rambarran, Harry and Pooran from Enterprise/Nonpareil, ECD.
According to the Party, sugar workers today face an uncertain future with the decision to close Wales Estate and the impending closure of the La Bonne Intention (LBI) Estate, adding that workers were denied their Annual Production Incentive (API) and the fruits of other collective bargaining agreements with their union.
“The gains made for sugar workers and workers on the whole are gradually being whittled away by an unsympathetic and uncaring regime which is more concerned about feathering its own nest rather than that of the working class,” the political Party noted.
The PPP also said that the Administration needed to stop “playing politics” with the livelihoods of sugar workers and the decision to close sugar estates should be rescinded.
“This disrespect and callous attitude displayed by GuySuCo is a clear violation of industrial relations enshrined in the Conventions of the International Labour Organisation,” the PPP added.