September 29, 2016

Heavy rains, strike hamper sugar production

GAWU President Komal Chand

GAWU President Komal Chand

By Shemuel Fanfair

Monday’s heavy downpour coupled with the planned once-per-week industrial action on Tuesday affected sugar production across all estates.

This was opined by Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) President Komal Chand in an interview with this publication. Chand said while the strikes have not had the full support of workers, other factors hindered the level of productivity.

Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle

Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle

“Two factors affected production: the rain and strikes. The strike today (Tuesday) by sugar workers across the sugar industry did affect GuySuCo very much in that you don’t have enough canes harvested,” posited the GAWU President.

It was explained that owing to the rains, there were no operations at Enmore Estate as there was no burning of canes for harvesting there on Tuesday.

Guyana Times understands that at Berbice estates – Skeldon, Albion, Rose Hall, and Blairmont – only 675 punts were loaded for harvesting out of 1350 punts, whereas the average loading of canes was around 1360.

At Wales Estate, only 56 out of 150 punts were said to be harvested while at Uitvlugt, there were only 37 out of 245 punts. This publication has also learnt that about 50 per cent of cane cutters did not report for duty at Wales Estate.

Chand explained that industrial action would continue, even with the recent revelation that workers would be paid the 2015 Annual Production Incentive (API) on April 1 of this year. This followed negotiations that were declared deadlocked by Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle in February after both parties held steadfast to their respective positions. Workers will be given 2.72 days pay for 85,000 tonnes of canes produced.

Chand defended the Union for not pursuing arbitration and explained it did not “seem necessary” for GAWU to go that route.

Wales Estate“There’s no reason; the Union feels that to exhaust the procedure up to conciliation and to leave the matter like that.”

Responding to the supposition that the Union is giving in to GuySuCo, Chand rubbished this notion and posited that the Union would continue to actively represent the rights and demands of workers.

“[The Union is considering] other actions that we are engaging; like the issues of last year’s wages and the campaign to save Wales Estate so we are very much engaged in activism.”

The GAWU President further noted that the Union would soon put in its 2016 API claim.

GuySuCo and GAWU were at loggerheads since November last year over sugar workers’ API for 2015. Strike action intensified after the January announcement that Wales Estate would cease operations in 2017.

GuySuCo had said in a statement that if the strikes continued, the Corporation would have no other choice than to halt the current crop. It was, however, reported that workers viewed this disclosure as a “mere threat”.

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