In an effort garner more traction to their call, sugar workers attached to the Wales Sugar Estate, West Bank Demerara (WBD) are expected to protest the Ministry of the Presidency this morning. This follows a five-day picket action in front of the Estate last week over the non-payment of their severance packages which were meant to be paid since last December.
The workers’ grievance is that the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (GuySuCo) is “forcing” them to transfer their service to Uitvlugt Estate on the West Coast of Demerara, some 22 miles from their point of origin. The sugar workers have explained that they cannot be compelled to travel such a great distance and are demanding that they are paid severance, in keeping with the relevant laws.
The workers last week said they have had enough of the uncertainty over their owed payments and reiterated their rejection to being transferred. It was after GuySuCo’s meeting with the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), some two weeks ago, that the Sugar Corporation disclosed to the public that there is a demand for labour at the Uitvlugt Estate. According to the workers, they were subsequently informed that the Union had agreed for employees to be transferred to Uitvlugt, but GAWU denied that it ever made any such agreement.
In a statement to the press last week, GuySuCo registered its “frustration” publicly over the moves undertaken by the Union which it deemed as “anti-business, anti-management, anti-discipline and anti-GuySuCo tactics”. “The Corporation has concluded that GAWU is solely intent on exploiting our employees from Wales Estate for two reasons: To gain mileage and for self-preservation,” the Sugar Corporation added in its strongly worded statement.
The Corporation noted that the Uitvlugt Estate is being upgraded to increase its production from 20,000 to 40,000 tonnes of sugar annually. On this basis, the Corporation reiterated its demand for labour.
“With this demand for labour at the Uitvlugt Estate and the transitioning of the Wales Estate out of sugar production, as well as the pleas from almost all sectors, the Corporation sought to explore the possibility of retaining the cane harvesters and cane transport employees at Wales Estate. It should be noted that the employees from both categories will be transported to Uitvlugt Estate on a daily basis,” GuySuCo added.
It was further explained that based on dialogue with workers, the Sugar Corporation retained 650 of the 950 employees on the register at the Wales Estate.
“At a meeting that was held on February 1, 2017 with GuySuCo and Union representatives, it was agreed that further sessions will be held to engage the employees directly to inform them of the Corporation’s position, as such, [on] February 8, 2017, management met with the employees from the Cane Harvesting and Cane Transport sections, along with their Union representatives – both Central and local – to inform them of the Corporations position,” the statement added.
GuySuCo further disclosed that it became privy to information that “some persons” were advising the employees that they should request severance and then seek re-employment, a move which the Corporation characterised as “extremely counterproductive and highly illogical” as the workers would continue their service.
“The Corporation [is] frustrated and fed-up of these games which GAWU has become so accustomed to engaging in. GuySuCo has concluded that GAWU is not interested in the well–being of our employees, rather their thrust is more about self-preservation, keeping GAWU in business.
Therefore, they continue to use tactics of appealing to the emotions of various sections of the public,” the Sugar Corporation expressed.
In early 2016, INews‘ sister agency Guyana Times broke the news of Government’s intention to close the Wales Sugar Factory.
Shortly afterwards, Government confirmed the end of sugar operations at the Wales Estate, citing cost as the main factor for closure. It was later disclosed that rice will be planted as part of the diversification plan, but it remains unclear when the first rice crop will be reaped.