Sugar workers have not enjoyed an increase in salaries since 2015. This will be a major factor in their decision about which party they will vote for in the March general and regional elections.
Central government did not agree to make any releases from the Treasury to pay a wage increase for the workers. The government has bluntly said that the issue of wage increases for sugar workers is a matter for the sugar unions and the sugar corporation.
But the government is well aware that the sugar corporation is in no position to afford any increases and it is only through central government intervention that sugar workers can expect an increase.
This raises the issue of just what criteria should be used to determine whether public sector workers should be paid a salary increase. The government’s approach to the sugar workers would tend to suggest that, when it comes to public corporations, profitability determines increases in salaries.
The government’s position is that sugar is not profitable and therefore the workers in the industry are not entitled to an increase in salaries. However, is GuySuCo the only public corporation, which is not profitable? Did the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) and the Guyana Oil Company (Guyoil) turn a profit in 2019? They could hardly be profitable if they have to depend on central government’s support.
In his 2019 Budget speech, the Minister of Finance spoke about the prospects of an higher deficit in 2018 and pointed to higher acquisition costs for fuel which would have affected GPL and Guyoil. GPL surely could not have been profitable since Central government promised to inject $3.6B into its operations last year.
Yet workers of GPL, unlike GuySuCo workers, did receive a salary increase last year. GPL workers reportedly received an increase of 8.5% last year; they also received increases in previous years.
Sugar workers therefore have every right to feel that they have been treated unfairly and discriminated against. And what about the public service – the ministries, departments and agencies? What is the basis upon which the government decides to grant public service workers an increase?
Did the government do an analysis of each of these agencies to show that they have become more efficient than in the previous year?
So what was the basis upon which the government decided to grant public servants salary increases since 2015? Is it based on better performance? If so, where are the performance measures?
Both the PPPC and the APNU+AFC governments have offered annual salary increases to public servants regardless of performance indicators. So why then should the sugar workers not have received an increase? Are they being punished?
Annual salary increases are have become the norm in Guyana because the government recognises two things. The first is that there is a wage deficit which has to be narrowed and annual wage increases allow for government to close this deficit. The reason for annual wage increases is to ensure an increase in real wages by paying increases, which are above the inflation rate.
It is not certain how many people take seriously the declared inflation rate but without increases above the rate of inflation, workers would find that the money, which they are taking home is buying less than before.
Sugar workers have not enjoyed a salary increase for four years. It means that the purchasing power of their wages is less today than it was four years ago. In other words, what they can buy today with their wages is less than what they could in 2014. They are worst off, unlike other workers in the public service who have enjoyed increases in real wages.
The sugar industry is in deep crisis. But that should be more reason to support workers rather than to punish them. If the sugar industry is to survive, you need a motivated workforce so that the industry can become more efficient.
If workers’ salaries are buying less goods than before, these workers will not be encouraged to stick around. They will not be motivated to improve production and efficiency. Not paying sugar workers an increase for five years is not only cruel, it is counterproductive.
Sugar workers know that protests will not force the government to offer them an increase. They know that the only protest, which matters is their vote. And you can bet that sugar workers will reject the APNU+AFC at next month’s elections because they know that with such a government they have no future. That is more than 10,000 votes. Think about that!
Feb 27, 2020Country Coordinator Brian Joseph hails project a success; seeking to expand By Franklin Wilson The ten Primary Schools which formed part of the Concacaf Next Play Pilot Project were yesterday part of...
Editor’s Note, If your sent letter was not published and you felt its contents were valid and devoid of libel or personal attacks, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]