– as downscaling of sugar takes effect
Several estates are already being impacted as Government moves to downsize the local sugar industry. Among those are Albion Estate on the Corentyne Coast in East Berbice, whose management has moved to impose certain new measures — including merging gangs — that would lead to a reduction in shop stewards.
In an effort to get this issue addressed, scores of Albion Estate cane harvesters picketed the estate’s administrative office on Thursday, protesting against the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (GuySuCo’s) action to reassemble working gangs 14A, 14B and 15A into one gang.
President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Komal Chand, said that GuySuCo’s “unilateral action” would reduce the number of shop stewards from nine to three, and those would be presiding over a workforce of approximately 700 cane cutters.
According to him, this action will further demotivate the workers.
Chand said the shop stewards were, on July 25, 2017, informed of the decision by an official of GuySuCo, who allegedly refused to engage the stewards on the rationale for the decision, but — reportedly in an unpleasant tone — told them, “It was a management decision”.
GAWU is of the view that three shop stewards cannot effectively service the issues and problems which arise in the course of the workers’ day; hence, over the past years, the ratio of shop stewards to workers has been about three to 230/ 250 workers – a ratio which has been tested and proven workable to date.
Chand says this move by the ‘New GuySuCo’ is yet another rollback of the workers’ gains.
As such, GAWU in a statement said it is calling “on GuySuCo to engage immediately the Union and the shop stewards in earnest, with a view to addressing the gang merger.”
This publication was informed that the merger of the previously mentioned gangs at this time — commencement of the sugar industry’s second crop harvest — is a most negative approach by those in charge of the industry, and may not have factored in consideration of the best interests of the sugar industry.
In announcing plans to downsize the sugar industry, Government has said it plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar estates, and sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory; but it intends to keep the estates at Blairmont, on the West Bank of Berbice; Albion-Rose Hall, in East Berbice; and Uitvlugt-Wales in West Demerara.
Government also plans to cut sugar production to approximately 147,000 tonnes per annum, to satisfy local market demand (25,000 tonnes per annum); Caricom and other regional markets’ demand (50,000-60,000 tonnes per annum); the United States’ market demand (12,500 tonnes per annum) and the world market demand (50,000 tonnes per annum).