Wales Estate closure
– says GuySuCo trying to put Union “in bad light”
BY EDWARD LAYNE
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) is defending its decision to encourage sugar workers to stage one-day per week strike action, denouncing the Government’s decision to close the Wales Sugar Estate.
The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) on Wednesday accused the trade union of pressuring sugar workers of the Uitvlugt Estate to joining the ongoing protests.
It claimed a Field Officer and representatives of GAWU threatened workers who were “reluctant” to join the industrial action. “Similarly the workers were told if they don’t support the strike they would not be afforded representation by the union in the future,” the corporation said. But GAWU in a statement over the weekend said the claims by GuySuCo were aimed at showing the union “in a bad light”.
The union reminded that the one-day per week strike is a decision taken by the union’s General Council team on January 30, 2016 over GuySuCo’s refusal to engage union in Collective Bargaining, by imposing an “unjust” 2.72 days Annual Production Incentive (API) on workers for 2015.
The union said it will not be deterred by GuySuCo’s attempts to thwart its efforts in protecting the rights and interests of its members. “With our Collective leadership and through democratic deliberations, we intend to stand firm in taking decisions and adopting various measures in “sync with the best interests of the workers and the industry,” the union stated, adding, “workers are driven to take responsible and militant actions in defence of their interests and rights and in support of their demands.” It also warned of an emergence of an “anti-worker and anti-Union thrust” in recent months, which it said has undermined trust in the Corporation to do the right and the lawful things, to safeguard and secure workers’ interests; and to promote industrial democracy. The union said GuySuCo’s claims that the union representative was acting improperly when he encouraged workers to take industrial action is an attempt to roll-back a zealously guarded practice of trade unionism. “The GAWU, in principle, condemns such an attempt,” it stated.
The union also rubbished claims that one of its representatives was disengaged by the union for failing to galvanise workers for protest.
“While we are not surprised by such inaccuracies by the few at the top of GuySuCo, we simply wish to point out emphatically that this statement has no basis in fact,” the statement claimed.
The union said it was “somewhat amused” by the absurdity contained in GuySuCo’s statement, which claimed that GAWU representatives would be removed if they failed to get workers to strike.
It also described as “mischievous assertions”, a claim by the sugar corporation that workers were told that if they fail to join in the protest the union will not provide representation to them.
“What is more painful is to experience the low levels GuySuCo’s leadership has fallen to and low dodges it has resorted to as reflected in the statement. This condition harks back to the colonial times, not a pleasant feeling in this year when the nation is poised to mark its 50th Freedom Anniversary,” the union stated. GuySuCo and GAWU have been at logger-heads since November of last year over disagreements on API for workers for 2015.
Recently, Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle declared deadlock after negotiations over the 2015 API between GAWU and GuySuCo ended in stalemate.