October 1, 2016

Sugar workers down tools again

…“1700 workers did not turn up for duty” – GuySuCo Finance Director

Some 1700 sugar workers did not turn up for duty on Monday as employees across the sugar belt continue to protest the action by the Government to close the Wales Sugar Factory and the continued delay in negotiations over the Annual Production Incentive (API).

GuySuCo Finance Director Paul Bhim

GuySuCo Finance Director Paul Bhim

In a telephone interview with the Government Information Agency (GINA), Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Finance Director Paul Bhim stated that the impact of the strike would be known today.
However, Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) President Komal Chand, in an interview with this publication on Tuesday evening, stated that the strike action was “partially supported”. He, however, emphasised that the majority of the cane cutters supported the move by not turning up for duties.
This “partial” support of the planned strike came in light of recent threats by GuySuCo, which said it would halt the entire crop if GAWU continued with industrial action. GuySuCo, in a statement released in February, had stated that the strike actions “would leave the Corporation with no alternative but to put a halt to the current crop”.
The Corporation had also accused the Union of threatening workers to make them strike. GuySuCo claimed that a Field Officer and representatives of GAWU threatened workers who were “reluctant” to join the industrial action.  “…workers were told if they don’t support the strike, they would not be afforded representation by the Union in the future.”
GAWU later defended its decision to continue with the planned once-a-week strike and claimed that GuySuCo’s statements were aimed at showing the Union “in a bad light”.
The Union had also said GuySuCo’s claims that the Union representative was acting improperly when he encouraged workers to take industrial action  was an attempt to “roll back a zealously guarded practice of trade unionism”.
The Union reminded that the one-day-per-week strike action was a decision that was taken by its General Council team on January 30, 2016 over GuySuCo’s refusal to engage the Union in collective bargaining by imposing an “unjust” 2.72 days API on workers for 2015 and the closure of the Wales Estate. GuySuCo and GAWU have been at loggerheads since November last year over the API for sugar workers for 2015. Recently, Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle declared a deadlock after negotiations over the 2015 API ended in a stalemate.
The most recent industrial action by workers was taken on Republic Day, February 23.
Government and GuySuCo confirmed the closure of the Estate in January after Guyana Times revealed that a decision was made to close the entity. The rationale behind the closure was that this year would see Wales accounting for $1.6 billiion-1.9 billion in losses.

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