Sugar workers are not likely to receive any production bonus this year,
making it the first time in 64 years.
The claims of the non-payment were made yesterday by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU).
The union, the largest sugar union in Guyana, explained that the Annual Production Incentive (API) was previously known as Annual Production Bonus (APB). It came into being in 1952. The industry then was under private ownership.
“This incentive to a section of the productive workforce continued after nationalization which took place under the Administration of L.F.S. Burnham who assured the workers on Vesting Day – May 26, 1976 – that their “conditions of employment shall not be less favourable”. This commitment has been honoured until last year,” GAWU said in a statement yesterday.
According to the union, this year, from what can be determined, the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) seemingly did not want in the first place to even discuss with the bonus.
“The corporation wrote to the union seeking the basis of its claim. GAWU, in response, pointed out that its claim is related to whatever quantity of sugar is produced, as is always, and no other factor.
Following the GAWU’s response, the corporation on November 24, 2016 engaged the Union in a session. “GuySuCo’s lead person at the meeting, apparently, was in a hurry to convey to the union’s delegation from the estates and union officials that the company’s financial position precluded any API award.”
Furthermore, GuySuCo advised that its position was consistent with its no pay rise position this year (2016).
“In fact, last year, the Corporation did not increase workers’ wages and salaries, however, it awarded a mere 2.72 days’ pay as API.”
GAWU emphasized that in the previous years, whatever the level of sugar production, API was never denied to the workers.
“For instance, in 1990 the production was 129,920 tonnes sugar and in 2013 it was 186,665 tonnes, yet five (5) API days’ pay were awarded on each occasion. We need also to draw attention to the fact that despite the financial circumstances of the corporation, workers were not deprived of pay increases and API awards prior to year 2015.”
GAWU argued that it is generally accepted that denial of reasonable pay increases to workers is not only callous but it serves to erode workers’ standard of living.
“It is even more obnoxious and counter-productive when really such a step can be avoided. The authorities are dangling the ‘debt’ question of the industry as their reason to not give the hard-working sugar workers an upward wage/salary adjustment critical to them. But we wonder if the ‘debt’ reason is universally applied. Certainly not.
The union said that no wage rise for 2015 and 2016 and no API in 2016 constitute a blatant assault on the 18,000 sugar workers and represent a most crude and cruel treatment of the workers.
“No Government since independence in 1966 has ever been so unfair to the sugar workers. Such measures, as myriad experiences have shown, will not augur well for the industry. The turnaround of the industry is not being promoted but an aggravation of the industry’s problems and, sadly, a degradation of the well-being of its employees, our fellow citizens, lives.”
GuySuCo is facing severe financial problems with production to reach a mere 180,000-plus tonnes, as compared to the 127,000 tonnes last year.
GuySuCo owes over $80B to suppliers and other creditors and has decided to close Wales sugar estate. It has also announced plans to place some of the lands under rice.
The state company has been racking up consistent losses in the last decade with consecutive government forced to dole out billions of dollars in bailout annually.
The industry has over 18,000 workers and is the largest state employer.
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