2015 would be indelible in the sugar workers’ memory as the year when, for the first time in thirty-one (31) years, they were not granted a pay increase, notwithstanding the rising cost of living and their exceptional performance in surpassing the sugar target by 3,721 tonnes, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has said in an end-of-the-year press statement.
“The refusal by a State Corporation at once contravenes Article 147 of the Constitution, and is in defiance of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 98; is in breach of the Trade Union Recognition Act (TURA); has ignored the GAWU/GuySuCo Agreement, and is another troubling disregard of principles zealously guarded in democratic societies”.
The statement added that GuySuCo’s stance, which is tantamount to discrimination against 34 per cent of the State’s employees, cannot, be divorced from a statement emanating from the Prime Minister’s Office on November 06, 2015, which stated: “It would be therefore ill-advised, and indeed premature, to commence wage talks”.
GAWU added that another blow to the sugar workers came via the Annual Production Incentive (API) scheme, which was started sixty-two (62) years ago as Annual Production Bonus (APB). It said that despite five (5) meetings to arrive at a reasonable settlement, GuySuCo took an adamant, not shifting from its original offer of one (1) day’s pay for 85,000 tonnes of sugar produced.
“This works out to 2.72 days’ pay for 2015, which is to be paid in March, 2016. This is surely one of the worst API offers in living memory. We see it as a disincentive to our hard-working, productive workers; we see it as stoking unhealthy relations in the industry at this critical time; and we are hoping that the Ministers of the Ministry of Social Protection will intervene, as the issue is at conciliation, in order that a just settlement could be arrived at”
$50,000 bonus for sugar workers
The Union added that with no pay increase and a ridiculous offer as API, it was hopeful that the $50,000 awarded to State employees would have been extended to sugar workers, especially in a season in which ‘compassion’ and ‘goodwill’ are emphasized. “However, representation to Minister Jordan brought disappointment.”
The refusal to offer a bonus to sugar workers came against the backdrop of huge amounts of money found to pay exorbitant salaries to high Government Officials, even though they are new at their work and the responsibilities taken.