– 2015 production target still possible –Hanoman
The recent industrial action called by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) has officially ended, and it is expected that all workers will return to work by this weekend. This is according to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Errol Hanoman.
This news would come as the industry’s current sugar production stands at 215,061 tonnes, with just over 12,000 tonnes needed to be produced to meet the 2015 target. The latter figure, the CEO said, can be achieved, and once the weather and other circumstances permit, close to 6,000 tonnes could be added to the final production target.
As of yesterday, production stood at 133,918 tonnes for the second crop. The last time GuySuCo achieved a second crop target was in 2004. The 2015 sugar production target is set at 227,443 tonnes.
It was pointed out that if it were not for the previous three-day strike in October, the set production target would have been achieved this week, according to GuySuCo’s calculations. Hanoman explained that once there is full resumption of work and production restarts, then GuySuCo will resume dialogue with GAWU.
GuySuCo is offering 2.7 days API which will be paid by March 2016.
Last Saturday workers went on strike over the API offered by the corporation.
Hanoman said that talks on Friday with GAWU, regarding the API were left unfinished, after GAWU officials indicated that they wanted to consult their membership. However, what followed was strike action.
Yesterday, GAWU in a separate statement said that members of its General Council (GC), at a special meeting earlier in the day, had decided to advise the workers to suspend the current strike which followed last Friday’s Annual Production Incentive (API) talks between union officials and GuySuCo.
GAWU said that members of the union’s negotiation team, who are not part of the General Council, also participated in the meeting.
“The GC noted the commitment and spirit of the workers who gallantly are prepared to protect and defend their hard won gains, their right to increase pay like other workers – so necessary, at least, to maintain their purchasing power in conditions of rising costs of essential goods.”
GAWU said that sugar workers were “aghast” when they were informed last Friday by their colleagues who are members of the union’s negotiation team, that the corporation adamantly held on to a quantity of 85,000 tonnes sugar for a day’s pay as API.
“This is a vast difference from the union amended claim of 37,000 tonnes sugar for a day’s pay which was the average over the last four years. Last year, for instance, the API payment was 4.5 days’ pay on the production of 216,242 tonnes of sugar.”
GAWU said should the industry attain its production target of 227,000 tonnes sugar, then the workers should earn as API approximately 6.13 days’ pay.
“However, GuySuCo is only offering 2.6 days’ pay. Between 1989 and 2013, the lowest incentive was 5 days’ pay and the highest was 23.5, notwithstanding that in one instance production was below 130,000 tonnes sugar.”
Regarding, the wage negotiations, the union claimed that GuySuCo continues to blatantly breach the Trade Union Recognition Act (TURA) which requires the process of Collective Bargaining to take place.
“The agreement subsisting between the union and the corporation, at the same time, is breached by the corporation driving uneasiness in the union and among the workers. The relevant clause of the agreement requires the corporation to begin to address the union’s claim not later than two weeks after its submission and to complete the negotiating process not later than two months.”
GAWU said that its attorney-at-law, Senior Counsel Ashton Chase, wrote to the corporation citing the agreement and the TURA with a view to getting a commitment from the corporation towards its engagement in Collective Bargaining with the union.
GAWU said that the lawyer’s letter was not even acknowledged by GuySuCo.
“No increase in pay retroactive to January 01, 2015, at this time, and a token API payment for the increased production to some 227,000 tonnes, signifies that an important segment of the country’s hard-working labour force faces a grim and bleak Christmas, made possible by the GuySuCo and the owners of the industry. Sugar workers are resilient. What is denied and withheld from them won’t be ignored and surrendered. They would certainly contemplate further struggles.”
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