Dozens of sugar workers attached to the Albion Estate on Saturday morning burnt debris and blocked the Albion estate access road in protest for better wages and flood relief assistance.
They told reporters that due to the heavy flooding a considerable amount of cane was damaged and as a result, they have been paid less than $10,000 weekly.
The police led by Deputy Commander Hemnauth Sawh engaged with the workers to comply and clear the roadway. The workers subsequently complied after the senior cop said he would make the effort to get the Estate Manager to meet with them.
A short while later, the Estate Manager Threbhowan Shiwprasad and other estate officials arrived and engaged the workers in the compound of the Albion Sports Complex.
The cane harvesters are seeking compensation for not achieving their minimum daily punt weight of 6.5 tonnes due to dry canes.
Vickram Mangal, who has been working in the sugar industry since 1998, said that “this crop is the worst crop and during the flood 10 fields of cane duck, this whole industry was in water, when we go to cut, the cane all dry and stink”, Mangal said.
He claimed that workers are being paid $700-$800 a day despite working nearly 10 hours.
“We want $350,000 for each cane cutter, we can use it for this crop to send the children dem to school, pay internet bill, pay phone bill and we gon know how to use the money lil bit. We are suffering in this sugar industry,” he said.
Another cane harvester, Nicholas Paul said it has been over a month they have been demanding better pay.
Many of the workers expressed that they are forced to borrow monies from relatives and friends to support their families.
Meanwhile, the Estate Manager said discussions are ongoing with the union but he does not have the authority to grant the demands being made.
“The things that are being asked for at our level we don’t have the authority so we have already engaged centrally the head office and we’re working towards a solution.”
Meanwhile, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) in a statement noted that the Chief Executive Officer and his management team will be meeting with the union on Sunday in an effort to reach a “mutually agreeable solution.”
The Albion Estate as at the week ending September 18, 2021, completed four out of its scheduled 12-week sugar production. Harvesting which commenced on August 18, 2021, saw the estate facing a number of challenges that resulted in 65 days of flooding of the entire cultivation, GuySuCo said.
There are currently four out of five cane harvesting gangs on strike totalling approximately 1,146 employees.
The estate’s weekly sugar production target has been reduced from 2,100 metric tonnes sugar to 1,815 metric tonnes as a first step to recognise the loss in weight.