Sugar workers have been awarded four and a half days pay for this year’s
In the face of a financial crisis, payment is expected no later than February 27th, 2015.
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) also announced yesterday that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) will be paying a four percent increase later this month, despite a deep financial crisis facing the industry.
The industry’s production for the year stood at 209,949 tonnes, still shy of the targeted 216,000 tonnes set for this year. GAWU officials said that it is likely that the target will be met, with grinding to end on December 19.
According to GAWU, Chief Labour Officer (CLO) Charles Ogle, provided conciliatory services to the union and GuySuCo after the parties reached an impasse at the end of two sessions, on November 26 and December 3.
“Because of the deep financial crisis facing the industry, GAWU said that the workers would receive their incentive not later than February 27, 2015, rather than around the second week in January 2015.”
“Meanwhile, the Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), assured the Union and workers that the Corporation would pay the 4 per cent in wages/salary retroactive payments from January 01, 2014 on December 19, 2014. The retroactive payment would be from January 01 to October 04, 2014 since the increased pay rates have been implemented from October 05, 2014.”
In November, Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said the industry is likely to meet the original 216,000 tonnes sugar set.
Last year, the industry fell to a 23-year low of just 187,000 tonnes. But with a better than expected first crop, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) had earlier this year confidently revised the target upwards to 219,000 tonnes.
“We have enough cane in the fields, and therefore, once we have the right weather, I have no doubt that we will be able to meet that target. I am hopeful that by the end of next week we will surpass the 200,000-tonne target mark,” Ramsammy said in a Government-released statement.
Speaking on the issue of sugar export, the Minister said the export markets are guaranteed and there is no difficulty in this area.
According to Ramsammy, because of the short production in recent years, the Caribbean market was not supplied as it should. An agreement was reached where the regional tax was waived so that member countries of CARICOM could import from outside. However, earlier this year, Guyana indicated that it would meet the demands for the Caribbean suppliers.
“So we continue to supply markets in the Caribbean and Europe and we continue to have a demand for Guyana’s sugar and sugar products, so I’m not worried that in increasing our production that we may have market problems.”
This year had been the first time in the last few years that GuySuCo, struggling with labour shortages, weather and technical problems, would even be contemplating announcing any targets above projections set at the beginning of the year.
However, Parliamentarians were remaining cautious, demanding this year that GuySuCo table, at the soonest, a multi-year plan that will spell out the strategy of the sugar industry for at least the next five years. The reasons were simple. GuySuCo has been recording a string of poor performances, grounding to a 23-year low last year with 187,000 tonnes. This was down from the 260,000 tonnes announced at the beginning of 2013. This year, the industry was a little more hesitant, setting a target of 216,000 tonnes.
The industry remains a critical one for Guyana, last year earning US$116M for the country.
Its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) remained a steady 5-8% in the last few years, despite severe challenges.
GuySuCo has remained a largely touchy issue for both the ruling party and the Opposition because of the sheer number of workers. The sugar industry remains the largest employer for the country with 16,000 workers, 300 suppliers and about 100,000 persons indirectly dependent on its factories.
The Opposition-controlled house has been approving billions of dollars in cash to keep the industry afloat as workers moved away in droves to the gold bush and the better-paying construction sector. Its flagship US$200M factory at Skeldon has failed to live up to expectations. GuySuCo is hoping that it can return to profitability by next year.
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