…as Albion cane harvesters strike action intensifies
Another strike has gripped the sugar industry. The sugar workers at Albion Estate continued their strike action yesterday when hundreds of workers, mainly harvesters, supported by some other staff, came out again in their numbers.
And officers from the Tactical Services Unit (TSU) were on the scene in the event of any disruptions by the workers.
More than 500 workers attached to the Albion/Port Mourant Estate on the Corentyne, on Monday intensified strike actions– in its eighth day– to demand a higher price for canes. Workers, mainly cane harvesters, blocked the entrance to the sugar factory on Monday.
They are demanding $4,000 to cut the ‘over-run’ [bad] cane and not $1,600 and $1,800 that are being offered to them at present. A quantity of canes were reportedly left back and not cut during the last crop. This cane is now spoiled and the estate officials do not want to pay the workers the full price for them.
When Kaieteur News arrived at the scene, the Factory Manager and Agriculture Manager were seen discussing with the angry workers but the workers could not be appeased. Efforts to contact GAWU’s Seepaul Narine proved futile.
The workers are demanding what they used to be paid before– $4,000 per punt of cane.
“The manager that they get there, we don’t want him. He failed to come and talk to us here; he go in the office and sit down there!”
Two gangs of workers are affected by the action. “The canes are bad and its eight days there already– that is spoilt! Any over-run cane, $4,000 a punt!”. “It [the cane] dry out; it ain’t got no weight”. He informed, too, that since there hasn’t been any work over the past week, there are more than four hectares of ‘over- run’ canes to be cut.
Additionally, the workers said that their safety is being compromised in the back dam where the “dam beds are low”. “They make a jump drain and when the dam high and when you got to load the canes, you have to go up high.”
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the cane harvesters said, is of no help to them at the moment. “We want we name come out of the union and we gonna form a next union!” shouted one angry worker.
A GAWU representative, Joshua Appadu, said that he represents over 300 harvesters. “They shared 15 rows of punts when the people asked for 10 rows of punts and the price that they offered– $800– the people refused.”
He added that he asked the estate manager on Sunday about the difference that he would pay for the canes “and the man said he cannot do anything and everything remains the same so we still at the same condition and location here”.
The Estate Manager later arrived and tried to speak to the disgruntled workers. “Ya’ll didn’t have to block the roads!” he pleaded. The workers tried to air their concerns over the low cane payments. Kumar said that they had solved the matter with the union at the Regional Democratic Council office a few days ago.
This did not go down well with the workers. And Kumar left after a few minutes over the apparent confusion and after he was mobbed by the workers.
Thus far, approximately 400 harvesters have downed their tools, and vowed not to return to the fields until their demands are met by GuySuCo.
According to the Government Information Agency (GINA) the actions of workers have over the years, hampered the production of the corporation, and have resulted in shortfalls in projected production targets for the crops.
GuySuCo’s projection target for the second crop is 167,000 tonnes and to date, only 5,500 tonnes have been produced, even as La Nina season creeps up, GINA said.
Extreme rainy periods, compounded by the strike actions have been a major constraint hurting the sugar corporation and GuySuCo’s management is calling on the workers to be rational in their demands.
GINA stated that GuySuCo has over the years, successfully maintained it international market obligations, and at present, there is a European Union (EU), vessel docked in Georgetown, and is expected to sail on Friday, July 27 with approximately 6,500 tonnes of sugar.
According to General Manager Paul Bhim, this commitment would not likely be met due to the industrial unrest and would see the entity incurring an additional cost as US$6000 per day will have to be paid in the interim for the delay.
“These actions by the workers will only push the corporation backwards….we have a huge crop to take out and it is necessary to have the crop taken out…I would like to appeal to the workers to think the situation over as the country currently has important commitments to fulfill,” the CEO said.
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