Blairmont Estate sugar workers on Tuesday morning braved the rainy weather to take to the streets of Berbice protesting the Government for increased wages.
The workers who have not received an increase since 2015 downed their tools stating that they will not resume duties until an offer is presented to them.
Though the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) is yet to respond, the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) is backing the sugar workers, proposing a 15 per cent increase for the year 2018.
According to GAWU, talks have been ongoing since 2015 for the increase which is long overdue.
GAWU noted that the sugar workers are a part of the productive sector and their contribution to Guyana’s economy over the past four decades should be a major factor in considering wage increases for all of the workers.
The Union’s Berbice Representative, Harvey Tambron asserted that it appears as though sugar workers are being targeted, stating “It seems as though they are spiting the sugar workers”.
Speaking with one of the protesting sugar worker, INews was told that as a result of the increase in the cost of living in Guyana, their current wages cannot be accepted any longer.
“We really had to endure… increase in the cost of living over the last three years brought about by new taxes but the same salary cannot work!” the protester decried.
Government’s handling of the sugar industry since it assumed office in 2015 has received criticisms not only from the workers themselves but local economists and international experts.
Some 5700 workers from Skeldon, East Demerara (Enmore) and Rose Hall Estates were dismissed after GuySuCo had terminated their employment in 2017. Before then, over 1000 Wales Estate workers were similarly dismissed when the entity officially ceased operation in December 2016. These moves were in keeping with what Government has said were “cost-cutting measures”.
The three sugar estates that remained opened as part of GuySuCo’s restructuring are Blairmont, Albion and Uitvlugt.