September 29, 2016

Workers strike across sugar belt

GAWU President  Komal Chand

GAWU President
Komal Chand

The battle between the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and workers across the sugar belt continued as the planned strike action took place on Tuesday. Workers solidified their commitment to “downing tools” to address the issues which have been affecting them.

Guyana Times understands that 70 per cent of cane cutters at Skeldon downed tools while Wales saw 60 per cent of cane workers supporting the industrial action. Additional information reaching this publication posited that at Albion, some workers performed duties while others nixed their duties. Some of the estates have not begun grinding.

Speaking with this newspaper on Tuesday evening, President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) Komal Chand said the industrial action “affects the harvesting across the industry”. He also related that this will impact upon the cane loading process which would affect the production total.

Chand related that GuySuCo is yet to engage the Union in discussions on collective bargaining for possible increases in Annual Production Incentive [API].

“We haven’t got word from GuySuCo on addressing wage increases,” stated the GAWU President. The Union President pointed out that if GuySuCo agrees to conduct negotiations in a considerable timeframe, the strike actions will cease and operations will return to normal.

Some weeks ago, talks between the Union and the Labour department within the Social Protection Ministry were described as being in “deadlock” as no decision could be made on possible increases. The position of GuySuCo was that while its total revenue for 2015 was $18.4 billion, its employment costs amounted to $21.6 billion. However, sugar workers are adamant that they be awarded increases dating back to their 2015 wages and have vowed to further intensify the industrial action.

Meanwhile, GuySuCo has professed that if these strike actions continue, the Corporation would have no other choice than to halt the current crop. GAWU defended its actions to engage in strikes to represent the rights of sugar workers.

The Corporation intends to discontinue the Wales Sugar Estate in early 2017 which many believe will turn Wales into a “ghost town.” Many workers are still to make a decision whether to transfer to Uitvlugt or to receive severance packages. Meanwhile, workers have vowed to further intensify their strike and protest actions if the decision to close Wales in not rescinded.

Government and GuySuCo confirmed the closure of the estate in January after Guyana Times published 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.

About GuyanaTimes