Albion sugar workers’ protest: GAWU, GuySuCo reach agreement

GAWU President Seepaul Narine (left) and GuySuCo CEO Sasenarine Singh (right) signing of the agreement reached on Sunday

The Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) reached an agreement on Sunday to ensure the workers are compensated for the difference between their usual productivity per punt and the actual canes cut and loaded or cut and stacked, bringing the strike at the Albion Estate to an end.

The meeting, which was held at GuySuCo, saw GAWU’s President Seepaul Narine and CEO of the sugar entity, Sasenarine Singh meeting to discuss an amicable solution as the conditions that led to the workers striking were discussed.

One of the issues that was discussed was the impact rain and floods had on the industry and which resulted in the canes having reduced rate. Cane cutters are paid based on the tonnes of cane harvested and Narine explained during the meeting that workers were completing their daily tasks but being paid less than usual.

“The Union shared that the workers were responsibly completing their tasks but for their best efforts their earnings were curtailed. GAWU reminded the GuySuCo’s team that, in the past, the Corporation had compensated workers whenever their tasks were completed but their cane weights were not attained. From that point of view, the Union urged the GuySuCo to revert to known and established practices,” GAWU said on Sunday.

GuySuCo, the Union said, through its CEO, Sasenarine Singh, acknowledged that the situation at Albion was unusual. “He acknowledged the workers concerns as he noted that it required the cooperation of all stakeholders to ensure that production is maximised and the estate is able to recover from the serious setback arising from the floods,” GAWU stated, adding that GuySuCo proposed that workers be compensated for the difference between their usual productivity per punt and the actual canes cut and loaded or cut and stacked. GuySuCo’s proposal would take effect for this crop only at Albion, in light of the uniqueness of the situation.

“To receive the compensation, the workers would have to complete their tasks assigned. The agreement also places a limitation on the task assigned to workers in keeping with long-standing practices,” GAWU said.

GAWU’s President, Seepaul Narine shared that the Union was heartened that the corporation listened carefully and considered the concerns of the workers and the Union and that an agreement could be reached. He said this augurs well for worker/management relations and is hopeful for further improvement in the GAWU/GuySuCo relations.

Scores of cane harvesters attached to the Albion Sugar Estate downed tools on Friday morning to stage a protest over what they claimed is poor working conditions in the fields. Moreover, the workers raised concerns over the recorded weight of the cane on the scales, contending that the figures are considerably lower than what they thought was harvested.

The workers staged their protest at Adelphi, East Canje. These workers are from the Rose Hall Sugar Estate but were not sent home when that estate was closed and as such, they were transferred to the Albion Estate.

On Saturday, the protests escalated to the point where they blocked a major roadway. Police in Region Six, however, managed to engage the workers and persuaded them to clear the roadway, thus allowing a smooth flow of traffic. Additionally, the Police arranged a meeting between the disgruntled sugar workers and the manager of the estate.

The Estate Manager, Threbhowan Shivpersaud, then met with them and the meeting took place at the Albion Sports Complex. He told the workers that the current state of the canes in the field was as a result of the 65 days of the flood.