The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) is accusing the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) of refusing to promote an atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation, and “rather a stone wall is being erected”.
GAWU’s General Secretary, Seepaul Narine, in a statement to the media, also refuted “purposely misleading” statements being made by the sugar corporation. Despite this, however, Narine said the union “remains desirous of a fruitful working relationship premised on mutual respect in the interest of the industry and its thousands of workers”.
Following is the full statement by GAWU General Secretary Mr Seepaul Narine:
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) refers to those comments by the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) on page 12 and 22 of the August 17, 2016 edition of Stabroek News in which the Corporation asserted that no letters were received from the Union requesting GuySuCo to engage GAWU on a number of issues.
The Corporation’s representative is obviously unacquainted with the facts. We cannot believe at this time the Corporation seeks to be purposely misleading. The fact is that there are over twelve (12) letters to GuySuCo for which not even an acknowledgement was received.
Among the matters the Union wants to resolve is the one surrounding the Corporation’s decision to transfer arbitrarily the workers from the LBI cane cultivation to Enmore Estate. During the period April 12 to August 03, 2016, the Corporation engaged the Unions – GAWU and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) – on April 12, May 11, 16 and 31, June 22 and 29, July 26 and August 03, 2016 whereby the parties discussed the transfer/redundancy of workers who were engaged within the LBI operations – Field Workshop, Mill Dock, Field Lab, Stores, and Administrative Offices.
At the inaugural meeting, the Corporation assured the Union’s delegation that the cane cutters would not be transferred to Enmore Estate. Notwithstanding that undertaking and to the Union’s surprise the Corporation on July 26, 2016 informed the Union that it has decided to transfer the LBI field workers. It is a volte face. However, the Union’s delegation at that meeting did not agree to the transfer. There was another engagement between the Union’s delegation and the Corporation on August 03, 2016 and no agreement was reached. Therefore, it is inconceivable for GuySuCo to assert: “However in this instance East Demerara Estate is one estate, so the disturbance allowance would not be applicable”.
In passing we think we should clarify most of the East Demerara Estate functions are still separated excepting some nominal functions. However, if it is that the Corporation and the Union have reached an impasse in the discussions then the matter should have been referred to the Ministry of Social Protection for conciliation.
The Union asks ‘why the transfer of the LBI workers’ noting that the LBI cultivation is not closed? Indeed it should be borne in mind also that cane cutters are piece-rated. At LBI whenever they are required to undertake tasks other than their substantive tasks their earnings are pegged at $3,000 per worker, which is higher than the $2,700 paid at Enmore Estate. There are other dissimilar conditions of work between the two (2) estates. On this score, we again point out that the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act (TESPA) prohibits the Corporation from transferring the workers concerned under less favourable conditions. Moreover, the transfer is not proper since the workers are not redundant in keeping with Section 12 of TESPA.
Indeed GAWU and the thousands of sugar workers as stakeholders want to ensure workers’ jobs are secured. That is why the workers are opposed to the closure of Wales Estate and any other estate. It is GuySuCo over the past months especially since last October which is refusing to engage the Union on many major issues.
Certainly, the Corporation’s actions strongly reinforce the Union’s view that GuySuCo is not seeking to promote an atmosphere of dialogue and co-operation and rather a stone wall is being erected. The GAWU remains desirous of a fruitful working relationship premised on mutual respect in the interest of the industry and its thousands of workers.