Sugar workers want bonus, increase before Christmas
- picket GuySuCo, question execs super-salaries
Several sugar workers have picketed the estate offices of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) across the country, demanding that they be paid their recently announced salary increase before Christmas.
The workers, according to Komal Chand, President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU), are also protesting the high salary of the executives of GuySuCo and want their Annual Production Incentives (API) be paid this month, before Christmas.
The picket by workers comes at a time when the Corporation has already closed a number of its estates as the crop ends.
Yesterday, a number of factory maintenance workers at Enmore and LBI, East Coast Demerara, joined with workers from Diamond, to demonstrate and to wave placards.
Yesterday, Chand warned that yesterday’s exercise may very well continue and “develop” into something bigger. While many of the estates are closed, Rose Hall and Skeldon are winding down now.
Over the weekend, news that GuySuCo’s Chief Executive Officer, Errol Hanoman, was earning over $2.5M monthly in salary and perks, at a time when their corporation says it is cash-strapped, immediately evoked sharp criticisms with the Alliance For Change (AFC) describing it as outrageous.
In an invited comment to this newspaper Sunday, AFC’s Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan, said that it “is outrageous in the context of GuySuCo which is in a pathetic financial situation. This disparity as to what the bosses get and what ordinary sugar workers get is most extreme.”
But according to Ramjattan, the $2.5 million salary which the CEO, Errol Hanoman, collects on a monthly basis was approved by some members on GuySuCo’s board.
The AFC chairman also called for the board to resign, given its hapless performance. According to Ramjattan, the performance of the directors is also shameful. “Workers must unite and break themselves out of the PPP government’s shackles.”
Late last week, GuySuCo announced that workers will be getting their new rates of pay effective from January 1, 2010.
The Corporation, in a strongly worded statement Friday, also slammed GAWU for its attempts “to spread misinformation to our workforce and the general public”, following a picketing exercise by the Union Thursday in front of the offices of the Ministry of Finance.
On Tuesday, an Arbitration Tribunal, ordered by government, completed its month-long work awarding a three per cent raise in the sugar workers’ pay.
GuySuCo said that it “is extremely disturbed by what seems to be the tendency by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union of accusing the Corporation of deceiving and provoking our workers whenever it decides to stage a protest/picket action.”
By law, GAWU is bound to accept the award of the Arbitration Tribunal, despite the three per cent being way below the 10 per cent the union had been hoping for.
“We wish to remind GAWU that the workers it represents are employees of GuySuCo and it is in the Corporation’s best interest to ensure their future is safeguarded.
The workers’ union has sought to lambaste the decision of the Arbitration Tribunal, but it has not disputed the findings of the report, which highlight the difficult financial circumstances, the new Board and management at GuySuCo are working diligently to overcome,” the statement said yesterday.
GuySuCo also noted that the Tribunal, which comprises of representatives of the Union, had stated that the welfare of the employees depends on the viability of the Corporation and the latter should not be unduly burdened, given its current financial situation.
“Yet despite this reality, the Corporation was still committed from the beginning to offer its employees a three per cent increase.
GuySuCo wishes to state that workers will be paid the new rates from January 1, 2010, while the Corporation is working diligently to ensure their retroactive payment is honoured as soon as possible, notwithstanding the ruling of the Tribunal which indicated end of March as the latest date for payment.”
On the issue of Annual Production Incentive (API) which is a bonus normally paid to sugar workers annually, GuySuCo said it is astonished at the blatant attempt by GAWU to spread misinformation to the workforce and the general public.
“We are at a loss as to how the Union could be so irresponsible with the sensitivities of its members at such a critical turning point of the Industry.
GuySuCo wishes to point out that discussions with the Union over the Annual Production Incentive have already commenced and those talks are still ongoing. At no time did the Corporation indicate that no API would be paid.”
The Corporation urged that GAWU, in the best interest of the future of the company and more particularly our workers, adopt a more responsible approach to the issues affecting the Industry.
“We encourage partnership instead of protest, we encourage dialogue instead of the traditional distrust and we encourage building bridges instead of creating rift, all in the interest of our workers and the industry.”
The Corporation also urged all stakeholders to refrain from politicising the problems of the industry and to work together to move the industry forward.
“GuySuCo finally wishes to note the conclusion of the Arbitration Tribunal, in that there is still the possibility of steering the Industry to a path of recovery, but this depends heavily on the effective implementation of our Turnaround Plan.”
GAWU President, Komal Chand, during the picketing exercise Thursday, said that it was part of a “struggle” that the union will be engaged in to ensure workers are treated fairly.
According to Chand, the “struggle” will be for better pay and benefits; the payment of Annual Production Incentives (API); the implementation of the new pay rates and last, but by no means least, respect from the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).