The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is once again imploring its employees to think of their families and the communities which are depending on the viability of the industry and to allow good sense to prevail by encouraging the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) to make smarter decisions on matters relating to their livelihood.
In a Press Release today, the Corporation said it has encountered a very unfortunate situation at the Rose Hall Estate this morning.
“About 06:00 hours, approximately 735 of our Cane Harvesters struck, they were demanding an explanation from the estate’s management as to the reason for them not being offered work on Monday March 14 and Tuesday March 15. 2016.”
According to the Sugar Corporation, “the reason for them not being offered work was due to the fact that on Mondays, the Rose Hall factory undergoes statutory maintenance. It is important to note, that sugar production is a rigorous continuous process, therefore, if one shift strikes, it affects the entire production process.”
It is insisting that since the beginning of the crop, the President of Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) has been on record as stating that the Union’s General Council has sanctioned a strike every Tuesday within the industry.
“Notwithstanding, in an effort to minimize the deterioration of canes burnt and to reduce possible losses resulting from these strikes, the Corporation has been taking relevant precautionary measures,” it noted.
This programme of strike action, GuySuCo said, breached the normal Industrial Relations Protocol and Practices by escalating the protest action and taking it into the estate’s compound.
It claimed that “a few workers, behaving in an unruly manner, proceeded to enter the Administrative building accompanied by their Union representatives and carried out actions which were inappropriate and of great cause for concern.
This breach of the Industrial Relations Protocols and Practices has raised the question of what are the real motives of GAWU, since the higher the productivity of the workforce, the greater the benefits for all stakeholders, including GAWU.”
The Sugar Corporation also claims that prior to the strike on Tuesday March 9, 2016, the estate management was in regular contact with GAWU’s Field Secretary and workers’ representatives to develop a clear understanding of the Union’s intentions in order to proceed with better planning.
“The estate management was informed that there will be no strike, hence; management proceeded to commence the production process, only to experience severe losses when the strike was called,” it clarified.
GuySuCo has concluded that the workers at the Rose Hall Estate are being “severely misled, they have heeded the Union’s call on March 15, 2016 and proceeded on strike; but at the same time, are demanding work to be made available for seven (7) days, illogical as this may be.”
GuySuCo has since written GAWU expressing its disappointment on the conduct of its Officers that led the group of striking workers’ to invade the estate’s compound and administrative offices.
Meanwhile, GAWU in its press release, also issued today, acknowledged receipt of the Corporation’s letter requesting a meeting with a delegation from the Union on Tuesday March 22, 2016 at 10:00hrs.
According to GAWU, the letter stated that the meeting is in relation to the “proposals submitted [by the Union] on behalf of the field and factory employees and the field foremen/forewomen for year 2015”. The letter concluded by saying “by copy of this letter NAACIE’s [National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees] delegation is also invited to attend this meeting…”
It said this invitation was in response to a letter by GAWU to GuySuCo on March 14, 2016 reminding the Corporation that such a meeting and negotiations were long overdue.
GAWU says it is “looking forward to the Corporation addressing the Union’s proposals for last year and has been agitating since the latter half of 2015 for the Corporation to engage the Union in discussions regarding those proposals. To arrive at this point of an impending meeting, workers had to resort to various actions to show their resolve for such a meeting which is to address matters related to their welfare.”
It noted further that “In view of this development, GAWU, through this additional medium, is now advising workers on all the estate not to proceed with strike action scheduled for (Tuesday) March 22, 2016.”
The Union said at the upcoming meeting it will strongly again advocate that the Corporation engage in Collective Bargaining in earnest. “One important issue to address is that of a wage/salary rise. 2015 is the only year in over three (3) decades when sugar workers did not receive an increase in wages making them the only segment of the state’s employees that did not benefit from same.
In the scheduled meeting we hope that such a stain in sugar’s more recent history will be erased.”
GAWU had noted that yesterday (March 17) “the full workforce of cane cutters numbering approximately 750 workers of Rose Hall Estate struck and about 500 of them picketed outside of the Estate’s Administrative Office condemning the Management’s decision not to offer them work last Sunday, Monday and Tuesday notwithstanding the fact that the other Estates provided work during those days. The Management of the Estate incited today’s (March 17, 2016) solid strike after it refused to meet yesterday (March 16, 2016) with a delegation of the elected representatives of the workers.”