Oct 28, 2020 Letters
As most persons know, the sugar industry of Guyana has stressed and thrived throughout endemic argumentations and disputes between managers and managed, and indeed between the latter, that is in terms of union competition, the most historic of which was between the preceding MPCA and the overtaking GAWU.
More orderly perhaps, was the merger into the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees, of the following unions:
Guiana Headmen’s Union (i.e. Field Foremen)
Sugar Estates’ Supervisors Association (of Field and Factory Supervisors)
Guiana West Indies Sugar Boilers Union (of Sugar Boilers who also worked at the time in Barbados, Antigua and St. Kitts, and indeed as far as Nigeria and Kenya).
The Sick nurses & Dispensers’ Association (whose members also included Midwives) maintained the industry’s health service under the direction of Estate Medical Officers.
What emerged from respective Collective Bargaining Agreements were certain principles of behaviours and reporting relationships to be observed by the engaged parties – under the banner of what became known as Industrial Relations.
But it was with the nationalisation into the Guyana Sugar Corporation that management introduced a new dimension of communication termed “Worker Participation” – a construct of engagement observed to this day across each operational location.
At these recorded encounters departmental representatives of employees (as distinct from Unions) on the one hand, and managers on the other, discuss immediate as well as more substantive issues, in an environment of deliberate cordiality.
Indeed there obtains a well articulated constitution approved by GuySuCo’s Board as far back as 1977.
It was a fundamental attempt to encourage managers to treat those who worked for them more as equals, thus lessening some of the inherent abrasiveness in relationships. Obviously not all the players observed the rules.
It is against the foregoing background that those who would have shared this experience might look askance at published reports of estate management being taken to task in relation to complaints made by employees – in a bypass of all the long established grievance procedures.
Quite worrying from an organisational management perspective, is reported political intervention that asserts the extreme discipline of termination of employment, on a basis that requires more deliberate and proven evidence. It appears to be an impetuous attitude of authority which overlooks the nature of the legal status of employment within a public organisation – just possibly a disincentive to prospective candidates for managerial positions in the sugar industry.
The impetuous declaration could serve, in some instances, as an inhibitor to managers’ decision-making, for them to choose to be safe rather than proactive – culminating in a perceptible loss of self-confidence; and in reflections on whom to trust.
A critical factor not to be overlooked is that several managers and managed live in the same community wherein families socialise. The quality of relationships, hopefully not too frequently, can over-flow into work environment.
We all have to remember that in the final analysis, however much authority we wield, we are communing with fellow human beings.
One hopes therefore that the alleged form of depletion of morale should not be encouraged. For one thing a relative might be involved. How does one revive the industry without reviving trust amongst its human resources?
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