Sugar workers’ protests continue despite assurances from Agri. Minister
Workers of the Albion and Blairmont sugar estates on Monday morning continued their protest action, expressing dismay regarding the attitude of the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) concerning protracted wage/salary discussions that go back to 2019.
The protest continued despite assurances from Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, at the weekend that the government would engage GuySuCo on workers’ benefits.
The workers, like their colleagues at Uitvlugt Estate who protested last Friday, are calling on the state-owned sugar company to address the long-outstanding dispute in earnest.
Mustapha has said that the Government is awaiting a report from GuySuCo’s Chief Executive Officer on the stalemate with sugar workers over benefits.
The workers are peeved that the sugar corporation has remained mum on the matter. They believe that the company is not treating with the issue with the seriousness it deserves.
Workers have urged the Corporation to return to the negotiating table with a view to having the matters settled.
“They shared that they are not unmindful of the Corporation’s situation, but they said it appeared that the GuySuCo was neglectful of their plight. The workers shared they are prepared to listen to any reasonable proposal from the sugar company but noted that all they have been hearing is a deafening silence,” a statement from the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union noted.
Speaking on the sidelines of a community consultation in Maida, East Berbice-Corentyne (Region Six), Minister Mustapha said “the Government has not promised any increase, but we will ensure that we work with the Corporation to see what we can do for the sugar workers.”
The Agriculture Minister said the agreements on wages and salaries are ultimately the responsibility of GuySuCo and GAWU.
“As a Government, we don’t interfere with management and union negotiations.”
Accordingly, Minister Mustapha said GuySuCo’s ability to pay the increases would take into account investments it has made since August, to revitalise the estates.
“We have been putting funds in GuySuCo over the last nine months to develop GuySuCo, recapitalise GuySuCo. As a matter of fact, we are starting to see results already from some of the estates,” the Minister said.
The Albion and Blairmont estates were lauded for making three additional days of pay due to the enhancement of the factories through critical capital works.
The workers and the Union remain hopeful that the Corporation can return to the bargaining table.
“We believe that serious discussions could see the parties resolving their differences and resulting in a satisfactory agreement. Our Union, during previous engagements with GuySuCo, has indicated our willingness to re-examine our position. Such re-examination, however, is predicated on the sugar company demonstrating its sincerity to finding an agreement and narrowing the differences that currently exist. Currently, the workers and the Union await to hear from GuySuCo,” the statement concluded.