The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) wishes to respond to the article published in the Guyana Chronicle newspapers dated August 4, 2016 titled: “LBI workers picket GuySuCo over transfer to Enmore”.
Firstly, the Corporation wishes to state that its current financial circumstances has made it imperative to review and revise the focus and mode of operation as it seeks to reduce inefficiencies and improve productivity in order to survive the challenges and craft a better future.
This revision process has therefore no doubt forced the Corporation to bring to completion areas such as the integration of the East Demerara Estate. Since 2011, the factory at the La Bonne Intention Estate (LBI) was merged with the factory at the Enmore Estate bringing an end to factory operations at LBI. Therefore naturally, all sections which supported the factory operations were expected to be merged eventually with Enmore.
At a meeting on the East Demerara Estate consolidation that was held on 12 April, 2016 both the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) as well as the workers’ representatives were informed that all of the LBI operations will be merged into the Enmore Estate and the employees will be transferred to similar jobs. Those employees that cannot be placed in similar jobs will be offered alternative placement and in cases where anyone could not be placed those employees will be made redundant.
The Unions and workers representatives came to an agreement that the discussions on the merger and transfer will commence with employees from the Administrative department, Field Workshop, Field Laboratory, Mill Dock/Cane Transport. The end result saw 40 persons being made redundant effective 31 July, 2016, the expiration date for the requisite one month’s notice. This process was in adherence to the process stipulated within the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act (TESPA). The process culminated with the Crop Husbandry and Cane Harvesting employees, since these categories will be absorbed fully at Enmore with none of those employees jobs being affected.
Subsequent to the inaugural meeting GuySuCo engaged GAWU and NAACIE in a number of follow-up meetings during the months of May, June and July. Another meeting was held with GAWU and the cane harvesters on 3 August, 2016 when it was agreed that the two harvesting gangs will be merged; GuySuCo further informed them that they would be transferred to the Enmore Estate.
Unfortunately, the Union recanted on their agreement, stating while they have no difficulty with the two gangs being merged, but they do not want them to be transferred to the Enmore Estate. However, it is not practical for them to remain at LBI since the consolidation process will bring an end to all operations under LBI.
At the conclusion of that meeting the Corporation reiterated to GAWU and its delegation that the cane harvesters and crop husbandry workers will receive letters officially informing them of their transfers to the Enmore Estate. This process will bring a closure to the consolidation of the workforce at the East Demerara Estate.
Further, the Corporation needs to reiterate that it is not closing the Wales Estate; rather the estate has been identified as the venue to commence its diversification programme, thus, it will be involved in producing other crops.
The challenge which GuySuCo has with the Union is that while the Corporation is changing due to involuntary and external circumstances, GAWU as a key stakeholder is reluctant to adapt to the change which is to the detriment of our employees who are members of their Union and it is making the transition process more arduous for GuySuCo.
GuySuCo recognizes the importance of a progressive relationship with GAWU in the light of building a ‘New GuySuCo’ and as we seek to mobilize our employees into the ‘One GuySuCo’ to craft a prosperous future for the sugar Industry.