By Leonard Gildarie
The Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo) yesterday announced that sugar workers, facing a possibility of not being paid an approved retroactive wage/salary increase this year, will be receiving it before Christmas.
The announcement came hours after the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU), in a series of exercises, picketed several governmental and GuySuCo offices across the country.
The union, in a late statement, said that it is pleased that workers would be getting the retroactive, at a time when workers would look forward to a good holiday.
According to GuySuCo yesterday, the estimated $300M plus would be realised from a number of measures that were put into place. This included an emergency loan from a consortium of local banks agreed at a meeting held yesterday afternoon.
The Corporation said that after diligent efforts over the past few weeks, “it is now in a position to honour the retroactive payments to our employees before the Christmas holiday.
As outlined in our previous statement following the decision of the Arbitration Tribunal, GuySuCo began to consider all options to honor our obligations to our workers, especially in light of the fact that we are in the traditional holiday season.”
GuySuCo, noting that it was not in a position to make a public confirmation earlier on fast tracking the retro payments, until it was in a position to access such funds, pointed out that there were insinuations during this period that management was insensitive to the needs of workers. These came from many quarters but despite these obvious distractions, the Corporation remained committed to its objective.
“As a result, to facilitate the retroactive payment based on the 3% increase, management has taken a decision that it will not be paying its creditors until late January 2010.
We ask our creditors at this difficult time for their continued understanding. We shall also be discounting sales of our molasses at a significant cost.”
Tate & Lyle, GuySuCo’s UK customer, has agreed to advance money to the Corporation on the basis of the next shipment of sugar to them. “We do appreciate their support at this time (and this has not been the first occasion). Additionally, we have deferred an ING loan installment to the last week in December 2009 and we thank ING for their understanding.”
The balance of funds to meet the retroactive payment to workers has been met through an emergency loan from a consortium of local banks agreed at a meeting held yesterday afternoon.
The consortium included Bank of Nova Scotia, Citizens Bank & Demerara Bank.
“Payment of the Annual Production Incentive as is traditional will be made in late January of the New Year, discussions of which are still ongoing between the Union and Management.
GuySuCo is once again reaching out to our workers and their unions to engage in dialogue to address their concerns, rather than strikes and protests, which are only aggravating the problems that confront the Industry,” the statement urged.
A responsible approach is needed not only to address the situation of workers but also the state of the company which provides the employment. “An important objective for the Corporation is to provide job security for its people.
We do hope that our Turnaround Plan is given a chance to succeed so we can live up to our promise to workers and other stakeholders of a sustainable and viable Guyana sugar industry.”
Speaking to Kaieteur News last evening, GAWU’s President, Komal Chand, noted that he and the union are “happy that good sense prevailed”.
He disclosed that the union had a meeting with GuySuCo yesterday and the issue of the production bonus (API) was discussed.
“We do appreciate that GuySuCo has made this happen at this particular moment. We also do look forward to meetings with them to continue to discuss this and other issues with them.”
Hours earlier yesterday, GAWU picketed the Bank of Guyana in a bid to press home their demands for the recently awarded wage/salary increase to be paid this month, before Christmas.
Yesterday also, the trade union majority grouping, FITUG – the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana – said that it is “totally dismayed and disappointed over the Gobind Ganga Arbitral Award which recently “recommended” with respect to 2009 a paltry pay increase of three (3) per cent, noting after tax deduction the increase will degenerate to two (2) per cent for the nation’s 19,000 unionised sugar workers.”
At the Bank of Guyana, GAWU’s President, Komal Chand, and several union representatives, under the watchful eyes of police, waved placards and demanded the pay increase for workers.
According to Chand, the exercises, which started last week at the Ministry of Finance and moved to several sugar estates, will continue.
FITUG, in its press statement yesterday said that it is not unmindful of GuySuCo’s financial challenges in the midst of management’s abysmal failure to maintain sugar production at least to the 300, 000 tonnes level.
The umbrella union body said that its leading affiliate, GAWU, has enumerated a long list of instances of mismanagement which the union submitted in its Memorandum to Dr. Gobind Ganga Arbitration Tribunal.
“FITUG has seen the indications of mismanagement which in turn, were recorded in two separate reports- one by the Commission of Enquiry into the East Demerara Estates and another by a Review Committee (in 2007) which investigated the Uitvlugt Estate. Those two (2) reports provide an insight of the sad reality within the entire industry.”
In November, wages talks had broken down between the union and the Corporation. GAWU was demanding 10 per cent but GuySuCo offered three per cent.
The Ministry of Labour had stepped in and had ordered compulsory arbitration to resolve the crisis, which had resulted in over a week of strikes across the country.
The Arbitration Tribunal released its report last week “recommending” the three per cent increase and giving the cash-strapped Corporation until March 31, 2010 to pay the retroactive wages/salaries.
GuySuCo, citing its financial woes, had said it would be paying the increase effective January 1, 2010.
However, over the weekend and earlier this week, news that some executives of the Corporation were taking home super salaries was not taken too kindly by the union and workers.
On Thursday, Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, said the salary structure of some of the Corporation’s head would be reviewed.
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