Nov 02, 2015 News
Sugar workers and their families may face a grim Christmas, if the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) continues its strike action.
This is according to a statement issued by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) yesterday.
The Corporation recalled sugar workers took strike action for three days last week over the delay in negotiations for a nine percent increase in wages and salaries.
GAWU which reportedly stirred the workers to conduct the protest in the first place, subsequently brought an end to it while demanding that talks on the crucial topic commence by Saturday last.
Seepaul Narine, GAWU’s General Secretary, had made the demands of the union known, in a letter addressed to Deodat Sukhu, GuySuCo’s Chief Industrial Relations Manager.
GuySuCo has since invited GAWU for a meeting and it was welcomed by GAWU which calls it a long overdue step. GAWU has accepted the invitation.
“It is our fervent hope that this meeting is the start of negotiations in earnest on the wages issue for 2015,” GAWU had said.
However, there still appears to be some lingering rumors of strike action to continue should the demands of GAWU not be met.
In light of this, GuySuCo has asked workers to be patient and not proceed with such a course of action as the corporation is losing millions.
The state-owned company said that October 30, last, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GuySuCo, Mr. Errol Hanoman, expressed the Corporation’s disappointment at the recent strike action.
He informed the Union that it was never the Corporation’s intention not to commence negotiations of its 2015 wage proposals. He reiterated that the Corporation was awaiting advice on the way forward for the industry after Government considered the report and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.
Hanoman had also asserted that having received a record high bailout from the Government, a road map for the future of the industry was crucial and the COI was expected to recommend a basis for such a plan.
He indicated that Government is supportive of the sugar industry and its people and is keen to consider any plan that would ensure its survival and sustainability. He felt the Union and workers have a critical role to play in the question of survival and sustainability.
The CEO emphasized that there will be negotiations but “we have a chicken and egg situation. Wage negotiation before the road map or the road map before negotiation?”
He informed the Union that both will happen.
GuySuCo stated that tremendous goodwill was built up over the past few weeks as the industry surpassed its production targets. Hanoman cautioned the Union and its delegates against the loss of this goodwill which would accompany protest action at this time.
He appealed to the Union, the representatives and the workers to get on with the task of taking off the crop and completing the tillage and planting programs.
The GuySuCo CEO exhorted them to set the scene for a successful end of 2015 and a successful 2016.
“Let us not be hasty. There will be negotiations, just not today,” he said. He also asked that everyone focus their energies on a good outcome in the evolving road map for the industry.
He advised that negotiations would commence as soon as GuySuCo is in a position to do so.
This situation comes at a time when GuySuCo has been seeing a favorable turnaround in recent weeks.
For years, GuySuCo had been performing poorly.
Several sugar estates were failing to meet weekly and annual production targets and the management of the State-owned company, among other factors, was blamed for the industry’s poor health.
But since the APNU+AFC coalition has taken hold of the reigns of governance, GuySuCo seems to be making some improvements; the kind which has its new Chairman, Dr. Clive Thomas elated.
GuySuCo recently reported that several estates have not only been meeting weekly targets but surpassing them. Even the controversial $200M Skeldon Factory has improved in its daily production.
In mid October, the corporation said that Skeldon realised its highest daily production since its commissioning in 2009. It recorded 515 tonnes of sugar, surpassing its previous highest of 501 tonnes which was achieved in September 2012.
It said, too, that with just two and half months left in the year, sugar production is on course with almost 78 percent of the target completed.
With regard to production, GuySuCo disclosed that it produced 10,254 tonnes of sugar for the week ending October 16, surpassing the 10,000 tonnes mark for the third time this crop.
Estates at Skeldon, Albion, Blairmont, East Demerara and Uitvlugt have all surpassed their weekly targets while Rose Hall Estate achieved 97 percent.
In mid-October, it was reported that the industry also recorded its highest daily production of 1,785 tonnes of sugar surpassing its previous highest of 1,699 tonnes which was also achieved earlier in this crop.
The Uitvlugt Estate completed its second crop for 2015 on Saturday October 17, 2015 and produced 7,847 tonnes of sugar surpassing its target by 733 tonnes.
“Further, the estate produced 16,428 tonnes of sugar for the year surpassing its year’s target by 1,065 tonnes.”
GuySuCo also announced that it has awarded its junior staffers and rank and file employees on the seven estates a total of $285.7M for their achievement of 26 weekly production incentives for the first crop, 2015.
For the second crop, the Corporation has doled out $531.5M for their achievement of 47 weekly production incentives.
The new GuySuCo Chairman, Dr. Clive Thomas, told Kaieteur News that he is happy with the recent success of the sugar industry in some areas and noted that several plans are in the mainstream to help develop other areas. He however declined to divulge what those are at this time.
The economist said, “But for the time being, I would say that I am pleased with the performance of the Corporation.
It is proof of what good management can achieve It’s a different kind of environment we have now; a healthy environment which encourages the staff, and fosters proper practices unlike what took place in the past.”
“I am pleased with the way the Skeldon factory seems to be improving. And I know that it can do more. But this is a good sign for the industry.
GuySuCo’s recent success is also proof that political interference was a severe toxic element in the industry and to the Corporation. That is done with.”
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