As the rational mind tries to understand the tactics of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) in the context of the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo), it is to say the least worrying that the Corporation has found itself in a business arrangement with a partner that has a totally different agenda. Organisations which are in partnerships must have a common goal, common purpose, and essentially, they must have corresponding values and principles.
The challenge with GuySuCo is that its partnership with GAWU for the most part, is not based on common business or organizational values or principles. Here is a case in point. After the announcement of the transitioning of Wales Estate from sugar production to other crops in January, 2016, GAWU organised a well-orchestrated campaign against GuySuCo by appealing to the emotions of various sectors – both locally and internationally. The thrust of GAWU’s claim was that the employees from Wales Estate were being put out of jobs and the residents in neighbouring communities would experience economic hardship as a result of this decision.
GuySuCo in its reorganization programme has identified the Uitvlugt Estate as one that has the potential to increase its production capacity by double – from 20,000 to 40,000 tonnes of sugar. However, one of the challenges faced by that estate is severe labour shortage. Any business would resort to the measures which GuySuCo used in an attempt to find a solution to the labour problem at Uitvlugt while at the same time addressing the issue of retaining employees from the Wales Estate in gainful continuous employment.
Therefore of the 950 employees on the register at Wales Estate, the Corporation sought to retain 650 of them; a section of these employees – the Cane Harvesters and Cane Transport employees were offered continued employment at the Uitvlugt Estate. Nevertheless, the Corporation is really taken aback by GAWU’s posture on this offer to our employees. One would have thought that the interest of the union would be to secure continuous employment for its members, but instead, the workers are being encouraged to demand that their services be terminated and that they be paid severance. This position is contrary to what GAWU was fighting for the entire 2016 – continuous employment for employees at Wales Estate.
The aspect of this situation that is most disappointing to the Corporation is that employees are encouraged to request that their services be terminated and then seek re-employment to work at Uitvlugt Estate. This is not permissible according to the Corporation’s policy. No doubt, this has happened in the past under similar circumstances, but this does not make it right. On the other hand, while GAWU is encouraging the employees at the Wales Estate to demand that their services be terminated, the employees at the Rose Hall Estate were encouraged last week to protest to keep their jobs.
Currently, the first crop at the Skeldon Estate has been suspended due to the co-generation plant beingb deemed as unsafe to operate and is undergoing rehabilitation works. However, this misfortune at Skeldon Estate has created an opportunity to boost the labour capacity and by extension the production capacity at Albion, Blairmont and possibly Rose Hall Estates. Reallocating employees is one of the Corporation’s strategy in addressing the labour shortage and unsatisfactory attendance at various locations.
It should also be noted that the distances which employees from Skeldon are required to travel to work at Albion, Blairmont and Rose Hall Estates, is in some cases double the distance the employees from Wales would have to travel to get to the Uitvlugt Estate. The Corporation hereby request of GAWU to make clear the principles upon which the Union operates – one of those principles to secure employment for its members or to continuously resist the decisions of the management of GuySuCo even without good reason?
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