Diaspora looking in…
By Ralph Seeram
I have developed a fear of phone calls–not just any phone calls, just the ones from Guyana. Phone calls from Guyana are in most instances a bearer of bad news. No one calls you to say “Hi” or to ask how I am doing, and frankly I do not want my friends or relatives to call me to find out of my well being, especially with what Guyana Telecommunications rates are.
I prefer to make those calls to my loved ones in Guyana and save them the expense, despite being “ripped of” occasionally by the very Guyana Telecommunications. That however is a subject for another time, and Terry, my old boss, we do have to talk about your company.
A phone call from Guyana is either one of two things or both, someone is ill or has died, or there is a crisis and the caller is seeking some financial help.
Believe me, some of those crises can be very creative in trying to get me to part with some cash. But don’t get me wrong, I do not hesitate to help genuine cases, which brings me back to the subject matter.
The caller at the other end of the line was explaining how her husband could not work for a week because “dem call strike and he can’t guh wuk”. She obviously was telling me that her husband wanted to work but was prevented from doing so because GAWU had called a strike.
As a daily reader of Kaieteur News online I was already aware of the back and forth accusations between GAWU, GuySuCo and the Government. Nothing is new here; the sugar workers, especially cane cutters, have for decades been used, abused and used as a footstool by politicians; and sad to say, but mostly by the very party in power today.
The problems in the sugar industry have been reported extensively by this newspaper, so there is no point in going over them, but this is an industry that is in serious trouble, deep in debt and can’t meet its payroll.
If this was a real privately-owned company one would say that it is heading for bankruptcy. And on top of this, you have a union calling for a 15 per cent wage increase, what world is Komal Chand and other GAWU leaders living in.
This is not the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90’s. It’s the year 2010; the dynamics of the game has changed but you are still stuck in the last century.
Let me give you and example of what I mean in the real world. When last have you heard of any major trade union in the U.S.A calling a strike? There has been so many layoffs that some workers are doing three persons’ work and not complaining because they have a job.
I have a relative who has not received a pay increase in three years but still glad to have a job. Are employers taking advantage of their workers because of high unemployment numbers? Sure they are, but you have to pick your fight.
You, Mr. Komal Chand, are an irresponsible union leader. You cost those poor sugar workers a week’s pay and what you achieved beside a lawsuit? NOTHING. Now let me ask you Mr Komal Chand; what have you and your executives lost? NOTHING.
I have a proposal for you and hope that you are up to the challenge. Disclose to the sugar workers how much of their hard earned cash they are paying you and your executives. Don’t leave out the “perks” allowances etc. Are you with me so far?
Now whenever you call a strike you must take a pay cut just as the workers are losing pay. If they lose a week’s pay then you lose not only a week’s pay but also a pro rata of the “perks”.
After all fair is fair. If you ask the poor cane cutters to make sacrifices you and your executives must also make sacrifices. The poor workers are taking food off the table for their children.
Your sacrifice will probably not even touch the butter or cheese off your bread, or curry for your roti. Now don’t you think this is fair? I’ll make a wager that you do not have the guts to do it, but surprise me and I’ll send you a gift.
I am not an economist, but I can tell you what is inevitable in the sugar industry for it to survive. You see the high absenteeism? This means that GuySuCo will step up mechanization; it will outsource its work especially cane cutters, to private contractors to reduce costs.
It will use more private farmers, not only to increase acreage, but also to plant and cut estate-owned cane fields. In fact, private farmers and contractors might end up doing the entire operation by cultivating and bringing the cane to the factory.
Do you see where this is heading Mr. Komal Chand? Check the operations of multinational corporations; outsourcing is the name of the game and you and your union, my friend, will be irrelevant in a few years, that is unless you move into the 21st century.
On a final note, Mr Komal Chand; have you ever heard a sugar factory blew its final whistle? I did and it is not something you want to experience.
There will be a few more final whistles before the sugar industry can right itself, and if you do not correct your course there will be a final whistle for GAWU.
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