Feb 20, 2016 News
– corporation threatens to halt crop is workers strike
The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) last year collected $17.2B in sugar sales but its employment and other costs continue to outstrip revenues.
According to the state-owned sugar company yesterday, costs for wages and salaries were $21.6B.
The Corporation would have collected $12B in cash and other assistance from Government last year to keep the 16,000 workers industry afloat.
The figures were released by the company following a stormy meeting yesterday with representatives of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) at the Ogle Headquarters.
The revenues would be but an indication how deep the financial woes of GuySuCo are.
It owes the banks, private cane farmers and suppliers.
This year, the corporation announced the closure of its Wales estate, West Bank Demerara, signaling intentions for operations to be merged with Uitvlugt, a factory on the West Coast of Demerara.
GuySuCo used the revenues and salaries figures to bolster its arguments that it cannot meet the demands of GAWU with regards to the 2015 annual production target that is yet to be paid to workers.
GuySuCo explained that the API meeting was reconvened under the auspices of the Chief Labour Officer.
The last meeting was held on December 11, 2015 where both parties presented their submissions to the Conciliator, after which he informed the parties that he recognized they had reached an impasse and that before he declared a deadlock he would prefer to consult with his subject Minister.
“Today (yesterday), both parties held steadfast to their respective positions posited at the previous meetings. The Conciliator declared a deadlock in relation to the 2015 API negotiations. The Corporation’s representatives requested and reiterated the position to have the matter settled at conciliation level in view of its current parlous financial state.”
However, GuySuCo explained in its statement, in keeping with the established Grievance Procedure, the Corporation “reluctantly” indicated to the Conciliator that it had no reservation in moving to the next level–arbitration–if the union did not agree for the matter to be concluded yesterday.
“Further, the meeting was also advised that the Corporation was amenable to the payment of incentives. The seven estates in 2015 achieved 94.41 days, thereby, allowing the workers to earn $1.099B in Weekly Production Incentive [WPI]. In addition, a sum of G$1.009B was also earned as Personal Performance Incentive (PPI) by cane harvesters.
“These incentives equates to G$2.1 B of tax free earnings to our employees. This is approximately 10 per cent of the Corporation’s employment cost.”
GuySuCo said that notwithstanding, a deadlock was declared by the Conciliator.
“The Corporation implored that this matter should end at this level with the union accepting the 2.72 days’ pay valued at approximately $223M. This would allow the corporation to go ahead and make the payment in keeping with its commitment to the employees.”
GuySuCo also expressed concerns over calls by GAWU for sugar workers to strike every Tuesday.
“The union leadership has also hinted in sections of the media of this strike action intensifying over the coming weeks. Given the corporation’s very poor financial health, if this call were to be answered by the workforce in the coming weeks, it will cause a major disruption of the current crop and would only deepen the financial woes of GuySuCo.”
“It would mean the factories having to stop and start on a regular basis, a situation that would not be financially sustainable. All the stakeholders, including the Union, are fully aware of the negative implications of this action.”
GuySuCo warned that strike actions by the union would leave the Corporation with no alternative but to put a halt to the current crop until the union gives it fullest commitment to allowing the crop to proceed unhindered.
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