Nov 23, 2008 News
…GAWU, GuySuCo unhappy
The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) will have to pay $1.3B to its workers as the arbitration tribunal set up to deal with the wages dispute between the company and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union ruled that a six percent across the board payment will have to be paid to employees by the end of this year.
The tribunal also ruled that a further 2.1 percent one-off payment must be made to workers as a cost of living adjustment for 2008.
However, given GuySuCo’s financial constraints, the company has been given until March 2009 to pay the living adjustment to workers.
But even as the arbitration makes it ruling, Human Resource Director, Geiram Petam, told Kaieteur News yesterday that while the company will have to abide by the ruling of the tribunal, there will be serious complications, among them acquiring the money to pay the sum.
This ruling, he said, has added significant expense for GuySuCo considering the fact that the company has a cash deficit.
President of GAWU, Komal Chand, told this newspaper that the decision has fallen short of the expectations of the Union and the workers.
He said that six percent cannot address the high cost of living workers have to face each year.
Chand added that sugar workers are employed in one of the most productive sectors, and the increase will not be seen as a motivation to workforce.
“There is a lack of motivation in the sugar industry…and the industry is being mismanaged,” Chand told this newspaper yesterday.
He added that if the weather changes and the Skeldon factory does not perform, then this year’s production of the industry will be the lowest since the reform of the sector in 1992.
“The industry is going to the pits. The future of the industry is bleak,” he added.
In its report on the wages dispute, the tribunal stated that GuySuCo can be a vibrant and sustainable industry in the near future.
For 2009 and beyond, the report noted, the Corporation can improve its financial performance through stronger efforts by everyone involved in the programme to enhance efficiency at the management, farm and factory levels so as to significantly increase output and revenues, as well as lower costs.
In this regard, workers have an important role to play since their input is critical for planting and harvesting the canes for sugar production.
It is therefore imperative, the report sated, that the Union and GuySuCo speedily and effectively resolve workers’ grievances and issues.
During the submissions to the panel, GuySuCo argued that given its current financial situation, it does not have the required financial resources to fund the Union’s demand of 14.25 increases in wages and salaries.
The Corporation stated that it is experiencing tremendous loss in revenues as a consequence of lower output and price cut being imposed by the European Union, its main consumer.
They also argued that funding of US$13M for the Skeldon Estate Modernisation Project and delay in the commissioning of the factory are adversely affecting its financial position.
In its agreements, the Union on the other hand stated that GuySuCo’s gloomy financial outlook is as a result of mismanagement.
GAWU claimed that output targets are not met because there is a lack of effective planning and this is reflected in the unavailability of cane to be harvested as well as poor quality cane with significant overgrowth.
The Union stated in its submissions that vast sums of monies are spent on foreign management contracts without the commensurate benefits.
Contacted yesterday for a comment on the decision of the tribunal, Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, said that he is happy that a pronouncement has been made.
“I am quite sure the panel looked at all the issues to ensure that both parties’ interests were acknowledged.”
He added that GuySuCo’s ability to pay will mean major sacrifices has to be made, ‘as I am advised that its financial position is bleak as the Corporation will record a deficit of in excess of $2 billion at the end of the year.’
The tribunal was led by Deputy Governor of the Bank of Guyana, Dr. Gobind Ganga.
Other members of the team were Attorney-at-law Cecil Seepersaud and Major General (ret’d) Norman McLean.
Soured wage negotiations between the company and GAWU resulted in workers taking industrial action which lasted for almost four weeks.
Both sides are bound by the decision of the arbitration panel.
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