…as Union presses for talks with GuySuCo for 2015 salary increase
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has denied that a countrywide strike in the sugar industry was in anyway instigated by the party. The workers should, in fact, be supported in their quest for better wages and salaries and improved working conditions, the party said.
The party’s General Secretary, Clement Rohee, was asked to respond to allegations that the countrywide strike might have been politically motivated.
According to Rohee, “This strike as far as I am aware is an industrial action.”
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), explaining the countrywide strike in the sugar industry, pointed to the continuing postponement of discussions from the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) on the 2015 salary increases for its workers.
The Union said that its wage claim was submitted to GuySuCo since March 2015, but to date GuySuCo is yet to meet to discuss the 2015 wages package.
Rohee told media operatives that the party considered the action on the part of sugar workers as “industrial action taken by the sugar workers.”
He rubbished any other insinuations and said that his party would be ignoring those suggestions, namely that there was some political motivation behind the strike action.
“What we are seeing now is really an industrial action by the sugar workers.”
Rohee in fact told media operatives that if government sees it fit to dole out a 50 per cent salary increase for itself, “why is not justifiable from an industrial relations point of view for the sugar workers to demand more money.”
He sought to emphasize the laborious nature of the industry. “I would want to believe like so many others in this country that we return to this same issue, that is, meat for the boys and bones for the workers.”
The PPP General Secretary is also of the view that all workers that engage in industrial action to uplift themselves and the lives of their families—against the backdrop of the salary increase for government—must feel peeved.
“When workers feel peeved the only weapon that they have to resort to in order to make their voices heard is strike action,” said Rohee.
He was adamant that in any situation where workers take industrial action, “to bring about greater economic benefits for themselves, we think it should be supported.”
Grilled further on political involvement behind the strike action, Rohee said, “As far as the PPP is concerned I can’t see that, we see it as industrial action on the part of the workers.”
He was adamant that the strike was in part, a result of the salary increases given to itself by the current administration saying “workers are thinking people too, workers in any sector, they are thinking people, they want to see their livelihoods improve.”
Rohee repeated his position that given the circumstances faced by sugar workers, industrial action is the means by which it voices its concern.
He said that industrial action is a universal phenomenon where when workers feel threatened and that they would be afforded a sympathetic ear.
Meanwhile GAWU is insisting that GuySuCo was continuously being urged over the past months to begin negotiations, according to GAWU.
It was noted that at a meeting in September last the sugar corporation had fixed a date in the first week of this month to begin to address the Union’s claims for wages and adjustment to certain fringe benefits.
“This date was set to follow the conclusion of the work of the Sugar Commission of Inquiry (COI) which was expected to be on September 30, 2015.”
However, the Corporation by letter on the day before the proposed meeting requested a further deferment.
That letter, according to GAWU in referring to the expected recommendations from the COI, GuySuCo stated, “Those recommendations you would agree will provide food for thought and a guide to all stakeholders on the way forward. Therefore, it would not be the opportune time for GuySuCo and the Union (GAWU) to commence negotiations when such an important report is awaited.
GuySuCo had urged that negotiations resume after the report of the COI is submitted.
GAWU further stated that in deference to the Corporation, the workers exercised restraint and goodwill.
It observed, however, that the COI report was presented to the Ministry of Agriculture over a week ago but the Union has been unable to get the Corporation to sit at the bargaining table for wages discussions.
The Union noted, too, that since the restoration of Collective Bargaining in the sugar industry in 1989, at the insistence of the international financial institutions, the commencement of wage negotiations for the 25 years never delayed as late as October.
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