The Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc.(GuySuCo) and the Guyana Agricultural
and General Workers’ Union (GAWU), yesterday agreed to proceed to arbitration over the disciplinary action taken against an employee of the Skeldon Sugar Estate.
The parties signed a Memorandum of Agreement containing the Terms of Reference for the Tribunal. The Sole Arbitrator was identified as Mr. Mohamed Akeel, who is a former Chief Labour Officer, while the Secretary to the Tribunal will be Mr. Dexter Semple, a Labour Occupational Safety and Health Officer.
The decision was reached at a conciliatory meeting involving the parties, under the chairmanship of Minister of Labour, Dr. Nanda Gopaul. Also present at the meeting were the Chief Labour Officer (CLO) and other staff of the Labour Ministry.
The industrial dispute arose after disciplinary action was taken by GuySuCo against an employee attached to the Skeldon Estate, Daniel Stephen, who was accused of slapping a Manager. It is alleged that the manager used racial slurs against the staff while in a drunken state.
It was agreed that the said matter be referred to an arbitration tribunal, which will enquire into the disciplinary action taken against Stephen, and having regard to the evidence and submission by the parties to make an award as the arbitrator deems fit. The parties agreed that the award of the tribunal shall be final and binding.
The National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE), another representative of sugar workers, rejected the position taken by the sugar company. In a public missive, NAACIE’s General Secretary Kenneth Joseph expressed that the refusal of GuySuCo to adhere to the CLO’s recommendation is similar “to the recommendations given to the Corporation by the Minister of Labour in the case of NAACIE vs. Guysuco when they would have wrongfully paid our members.”
Joseph charged that, “When decisions are made to dismiss a person with years of employment it is imperative to ensure that an offence was committed and that nothing else could have been done before that action is taken.”
NAACIE said that “the Union feels that GAWU should struggle in whatever way it feels justified and we the Executive and members of NAACIE can only be prepared to offer that Union all that is available for us to assist a sister union in this industrial dispute.”
He charged also that GuySuCo is causing the reduction in trust between workers, management, unions and even the community and themselves. “Also along with this, is reduction of production, reduction of profits and dis-enhancement.”
Skeldon sugar workers burned already cut cane stalks and protested for days following the worker’s dismissal. They were upset that the manager fired the staffer as part of disciplinary action when he was directly involved in an altercation with the staffer. They claimed at the time the manager was drunk and that he is usually disrespectful to staff members, but picked on Stephen and used racial slurs against him. The workers remained resolute that Stephen be returned to work or they would remain on strike. Several thousand US dollars were said to have been lost as a consequence. It was only when GuySuCo agreed to suspend the dismissal and conciliation talks began, that staff returned to work.
GAWU says that workers are paying attention to the matter and in the meantime they remain patient and are awaiting the outcome of the matter.
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