Wales sugar workers protest change in working hours
Scores of workers from the Wales Sugar Estate, West Bank Demerara, have once again reverted to strike actions after time changes were implemented by management as to when these workers should commence working.
Reports are that the disgruntled workers who belong to the “Mechanical Tillage gang” began their strike from Tuesday after their supervisors imposed 7:00hrs as the starting time for them to begin their duties.
According to a press release from the Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU), these estate workers who are engaged in tilling the land would commence working at 06:00hrs.
If the weather obstructs tillage from taking place, these workers are usually stationed in the precincts of the Estate’s compound at 06:00hrs instead.
However, following what was deemed an “arbitrary decision” by management, a delegation of workers met with management representatives who reportedly told the workers that they could either “take it or leave it”.
Kaieteur News was told that the matter was subsequently reported to the Union’s Head Office which arranged a meeting with the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) on the following day (May 16, 2012).
The press release stated that at this meeting the GuySuCo representative advised the Union to represent once again the matter at the level of the Estate because “management was spoken to”.
Once more, the Union met with the Wales Estate Management representatives who continued to insist that the workers report for duty at 7:00hrs and only when tillage is available they will report from 6:00 hrs.
This newspaper understands that after this second meeting some of the workers staged a picketing exercise outside of the Estate’s Administrative Office.
Some of the slogans read “Stop Arbitrary and Dictatorial Change”, “We start to work at 06:00am not 07:00am”, “Stop arbitrary change of our working condition” and “Down with take it or leave it attitude”.
The Union then referred the matter to the Ministry of Labour on Thursday where the Chief Labour Officer (ag), Charles Ogle, met representatives from GAWU and GuySuCo to have the matter resolved.
He recommended that the workers resume work to allow for further discussion between the Management of the Estate and the Union.
GAWU further stated that yesterday after a two-hour session, the estate management refused to allow the status quo ante to prevail.
After this outcome, the workers decided to continue their protest in the following days and in the meantime another meeting has been arranged by the Chief Labour Officer for May 21 at 10:00hrs.
It was also stated that the Advisory Committee inquiring into the dispute at Blairmont Estate last February, in its report, concluded that arbitrary changes to long-standing practices by the Estate Management caused the industrial action which persisted from February 10, 2012 for 12 days.
In the report, the Committee noted “that all customs and practices prior to the strike be reverted to and Management and the Union meet to discuss and agree on change”.
“The Management of Wales Estate and GuySuCo must take heed of the observations made by the Advisory Committee with respect to arbitrarily altering working conditions and changing customs and practices,” said GAWU.
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, told Kaieteur News last evening that he is urging the management of Wales Sugar Estate to try and solve the problem.
He emphasised that the tillage operational hours remain at 06:00hrs. The tillage operation is halted whenever it rains and these workers are given other employment.
The other workers of the Estate commence their duties at 07:00hrs.
“This represents the dispute because if the tillage workers come in at 6 am they have to wait until the others come in at 7am. The solution therefore is that either we have the tillage workers come in at 7am or the other workers come in at 6am. I would hope there is a compromise and I urge management to find a way so that no one is disadvantaged,” Dr. Ramsammy stated.