Sep 30, 2009 News
More than 500 workers from the Diamond Sugar plantation yesterday began a strike to force GuySuCo officials to give them a definite answer about their fate with the corporation.
They say that their action comes in the wake of reports that the estate is to be shut down.
The Diamond Sugar plantation has been earmarked as one of the estates that will be closed as part of GuySuCo’s restructuring programme.
The workers are to be re-deployed to the La Bonne Intention Sugar Estate. Some have already been sent there to work.
But Lucien Pierre, a GAWU representative, said that GuySuCo had not officially informed the workers of their fate.
According to Pierre, a written request for a meeting was sent to the officials last week, but to date, there has been no response.
And the cane cutters and other workers told reporters that they will demand a severance package from GuySuCo rather then be re-deployed to LBI.
“We are striking to let GuySuCo know that we want our severance package and no deployment,” Pierre said.
In a statement issued yesterday, GuySuCo officials alleged that a meeting was already “in train” when the strike action was taken.
“Following reports that a group of sugar workers had staged a strike action outside of its Diamond Office on the East Bank of Demerara, the Corporation would like to make it clear that a meeting between the Management of the Sugar Industry and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) was already in train, where GuySuCo will address the concerns of the Union and workers,” the statement said.
“It is the hope of GuySuCo that such a meeting will materialize shortly, as the Corporation maintains its commitment to engage all stakeholders in the effort to revitalize Guyana’s Sugar Industry.”
Nevertheless, GAWU representative Lucien Pierre said that the sugar workers will continue their protest action today as planned.
He warned that the strike could continue if the workers’ grievances are not addressed.
Stating their reluctance to be transferred to LBI, some of the workers explained that they will be further inconvenienced by the long distance they would have to travel.
Some of the employees, including women, reside as far as Zeelugt, West Coast Demerara and Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo.
Pierre and other cane-cutters questioned the logic in closing the Diamond Sugar estate, which they claimed has the richest land for cultivating sugar cane.
Airing other grievances, Pierre blamed poor management at the Diamond estate for causing the workers to fail to make their target of harvesting 1,014 tons of sugar cane per week.
He said that they have failed to make the target in the past five weeks.
He explained that management brought in eight mechanical loaders for the LBI and Diamond Estates in the wake of a shortage of workers. However, only three of the harvesters are operational.
The workers complained that they have not been receiving their Weekly Production Incentive, (which amounts to a day’s pay) because they have been unable to make their weekly target within the past five weeks.
They said that so far, workers at other estates have received 36 days’ pay for reaching or exceeding their weekly targets.
Pierre and the striking workers also expressed concern about their National Insurance Scheme contributions.
Some workers who checked at the NIS offices were often informed that most of their contributions were not documented, even though they have been employed with GuySuCo for several years.
Another worker complained that management has indicated that the estate dispensary will be closed. He said that this means that workers will have to seek medical treatment at the Diamond Diagnostic Centre.
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