THE RECENT call by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) for sugar workers to strike, has led to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) threatening to halt operations on the current crop.In a statement on Friday, GuySuCo disclosed that, “Such behaviour by the union would leave the corporation with no alternative but to put a halt to the current crop until the union gives its fullest commitment to allowing the crop to proceed unhindered.
The issue which arose following GAWU’s dissatisfaction with the Annual Production Incentive (API) offered by the corporation in 2015 has escalated on many occasions into strikes by sugar workers across the nation.
Again, on Friday members of the GAWU negotiating team picketed GuySuCo’s Ogle Head Office over the alleged denial by the corporation of meals to the union’s delegation.
The union in a statement disclosed that the picketing followed the conclusion of a conciliatory meeting to discuss the Annual Production Incentive (API) for 2015 under the chairmanship of the chief labour officer and it was at that point that the union was informed that GuySuCo had not prepared any meals.
Nevertheless, GuySuCo’s statement concluded that the parties, GuySuCo and GAWU on February 19, 2016 reconvened at conciliation under the auspices of the chief labour officer to conclude on Annual Production Incentive (API) for 2015.
The last meeting was held on December 11, 2015, when both parties presented their submissions to the conciliator, after which he informed the parties that he recognised they had reached an impasse and that before he declared a deadlock, he would prefer to consult with his subject minister.
PARLOUS FINANCIAL STATE
On Friday, the conciliator declared a deadlock in relation to the 2015 API negotiations. GuySuCo’s representatives requested and reiterated the position to have the matter settled at conciliation level in view of its current “parlous financial state.”
“However, 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 that is, arbitration, if the union did not agree for the matter to be concluded yesterday (Friday).”
Meanwhile, the statement stressed that GuySuCo’s total revenue for 2015 was G$18. 4B with sugar sales contributing G$17.2 B. The revenue generated by no means covered the employment cost which stood at G$21.6 B for 2015.
Further, the meeting was also advised that the corporation was ‘docile’ to the payment of incentives.
“The seven estates in 2015 achieved 94.41 days, thereby allowing the workers to earn G$1.099B in Weekly Production Incentives (WPI). In addition, a sum of G$1.009B was also earned as Personal Performance Incentives (PPI) by cane harvesters. Those incentives compare to G$2.1 B of tax-free earnings to our employees. This is approximately 10 per cent of the corporation’s employment cost.”
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 G$223M. This would allow the Corporation to go ahead and make the payment in keeping with its commitment to the employees.
It was also advised with great concern the union’s calls to the corporation’s workforce to strike on 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 would 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, the GuySuCo statement lamented.
Courtesy: Guyana Chronicle