GAWU continues protest for retroactive salary increase for sugar workers

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By Isanella Patoir

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) remain deadlocked in negotiations for a pay rise for sugar workers while operations at the Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlught Estates came to a halt Tuesday.

The union on Tuesday continued to protest in Georgetown but were prevented from accessing outside the Ministry of the Presidency after the Police barricaded Vlissengen Road and Shiv Chanderpaul Drive – streets that lead to the President’s Office.

The sugar workers then moved their protest to Croal Street.

According to the Union’s General Secretary, Seepaul Narine the most recent meeting with GuySuCo was held on Friday last.

GAWU General Secretary, Seepaul Narine

Narine said while the union has agreed to the 5% increase in wages, which does not cover all categories of workers, they are now negotiating that the increase should be retroactive from January 01, 2019, however, GuySuCo wishes to implement the increase from January 01 this year.

According to the union,  GuySuCo indicated that that the Government has to assist the sugar company with the funds in order to grant the retroactive from January 2019, which would amount to approximately $400M and sugar workers will be paid just over $50,000 per worker.

“…they [GuySuCo] said that they cannot agree to the retroactive period from January 2019 and that the Government needs to address that,” Narine said.

Sugar workers during the protest on Croal Street

“All they have to do is approve the retroactive payment and we could have the agreement ink and if they can do that then we will ink it on the picket line here too.”

It was also noted that GuySuCo has agreed to pay the new increases from March 01, this year, one day before the workers cast their votes in the general and regional elections.

“My executives have directed that we shouldn’t move unless the increases are from January 2019, it’s legitimately due and all the principles will tell you that the retro has to be paid for the negotiating period,” Narine stated.

Narine said President David Granger has the authority to grant the retroactive and that sugar workers have been discriminated against for far too long.

“Mr President stop discriminating against the sugar workers and at least you have a final effort to do something, you have the authority to grant the increases from 2019 and you could do it because it is legitimately due for that period,” Narine said.

Sugar workers were last granted a salary increase in 2014.

“….[2019] we are talking lets have an amicable agreement, we are almost here, I have said to them [GuySuCo] I am going to accept the offer that you have put to us, even though that it is low offer, but don’t rob us our retro,” Narine said.

About 350 workers from all three estates protested Tuesday.

One of the workers, Bajnauth Rambhajam said, “Things too hard, you not getting to work, anywhere you go they say [no vacancy] or you’re big, you cannot get work.”

“My husband working Uitvulgt but he there like a dog…if them raise the money and we not gotta come back here no more if them pay the sugar workers,” Olja Peram said.

Deonarine Naraine from Albion Estate said, “We are here protesting today because we want a 2019 retroactive.”

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