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Are the Sugar workers being hoaxed by their Union leadership?

The Corporation notes with great concern the current industrial action across the industry by its workers responding to calls from its Union leadership to apply pressure to the financially ailing industry. The Corporation in no less than four occasions over the last three months explained to the Union’s delegation the dire financial crisis facing the industry.

It is no secret that the current total revenue is just enough to offset payment of wages and salaries to its employees.

At our second Annual Production Incentive (API) meeting held on Friday November 20, 2015 at LBI. The Corporation offered for every 85,000 tonnes sugar produced one (1) day’s pay API. This equates to 2.7 days for the Corporation expected year’s production of 233,361 tonnes sugar. The delegation was informed that the Corporation will pay these monies no later than March, 2016 because of its financial constraints.

At this time the Union informed that it will not sign on to an agreement with such a high number (tonnes sugar per day’s pay) but has no objection to the Corporation paying the sum to the workers sometime earlier. Further, they will like to consult with the Union’s wider membership on the position put forward. The Corporation had proposed to reconvene on Tuesday of this week. However, the Union requested that after their consultation with the wider membership they will get on to the Corporation on the way forward. Finally, it was agreed that both parties will not speak to the press until we conclude this matter.

However, the said Friday evening  the Corporation was reliably informed that the Union’s local officer and it representatives were in the villages bordering the East Demerara Estates with the use of a loud speaker calling out the workers to strike for one week  instead of the expected consultation on the Corporation’s offer. We saw this become a reality when the workers of that estate responded on Saturday with the cane harvesters withdrawing their labour. Further the Union representatives of Skeldon and Blairmont indicated to management that they would be proceeding on industrial action from Sunday, Blairmont harvesting reps were clear that they will be withholding their labour for the entire week.

The Corporation’s Chief Industrial Relations Manager (CIRM) Mr. Sukhu, immediately upon learning what was transpiring on Saturday morning, spoke to Mr. Chand via telephone on the feedback received from the workers prior to them proceeding on strike. Mr. Chand denied any knowledge of this and maintained that there will be consultation among the membership and we will be brought up to date before reconvening. He was informed that any further disruption across the industry may see a possible withdrawal of the Corporation’s offer. These conversation and position were further put into writing to Mr. Chand via letter dated Monday November 23, 2015.

After a meeting of the Albion GAWU Branch last Saturday afternoon, management was informed by all the harvesting representatives to proceed and prepare work as their colleagues would not respond to the Union’s call for protest action. However, on Monday (yesterday) afternoon the reps informed the management that they will be going on a one day protest action called by their Union leadership who accused the Branch of being unsupportive to their fellow workers and the Union’s call. This morning the Albion workers are on strike, however, the 17B harvesting gang saw wisdom in not striking and are at work with the factory presently grinding.

Rose Hall cane harvesters on Monday turned out in their numbers but were not required because the factory workers went on strike. A meeting was held by the RH GAWU Branch and it was conveyed to management that the workers will only resume when GuySuCo agreed to meet with the Union. This position was rather surprising since there was no dispute regarding further meetings with the Union’s delegation. We wish to reiterate the point that the Union was to consult and get back to us on the way forward.

Skeldon workers and their representatives on Monday afternoon informed the estate management to prepare work for the harvesters. Today workers of Skeldon Estate are at work harvesting canes. The Corporation is aware that there were numerous calls from the workers to the Union’s central office seeking clarity on the Union’s position regarding the current strike. The workers continue to speak with management indicating their willingness to work but are being told differently by their Union leaders.

As we approach the holiday season, we are all aware that workers are predisposed to earn in preparation for the holidays but they are confused with the misinformation being peddled. No doubt this misinformation is meant to incite the workforce.

We request that the workers be allowed to continue to work, as Skeldon, Albion, and East Demerara have three (3) weeks , Rose Hall four (4) weeks and Blairmont two (2) weeks remaining for the crop. Isn’t it good sense to allow these workers to resume their duties and earn as much as they can over the next 2-4 weeks at their respective estates!

While we had agreed not to come to the press until the conclusion of the API discussions; we feel compelled to do so as a responsible employer in order to bring the facts to our workers. There comes a time when one will have to look at the reality and make a decision on which side of the fence they wish to sit: the side leading to destruction or the side working for sustainable survival of the industry and therefore security of employment.

As of this morning the crop’s production is 133,464 to date against 146,300 tonnes sugar budgeted and for the year to date 214,607 tonnes. The industry has an opportunity to surpass 150,000 tonnes sugar this crop which was last achieved in 2nd crop, 2009. Workers across the industry have so far earned 66 day’s pay [Weekly Production Incentives] for this crop  and 92 days for the year valued at G$1.043B. Workers should be encouraged to resume normal duties and work towards achieving their respective weekly targets and earning themselves additional incentives over the next 2-4 weeks.

Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc.

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