GAWU hopes for resolution to unsettled wage increases at May 4 meeting with GuySuCo

GAWU President Seepaul Narine and GuySuCo CEO Sasenarine Singh
GAWU President Seepaul Narine and GuySuCo CEO Sasenarine Singh

The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has invited the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) to a meeting on May 4, after being faced with massive protests in recent days from sugar workers for unsettled wage increases.

This week, over 5000 workers from the Blairmont and Albion Estates in Berbice protested for promised increases by GuySuCo for the year 2019.

President of GAWU, Seepaul Narine told this publication on Tuesday the Corporation requested a meeting on May 4, where the negotiations on wage increase will continue.

According to him, the Union remains hopeful that the dispute will be settled, adding that the Chief Executive Officer of the company, Sasenarine Singh, has the power to have it resolved.

“We heard from GuySuCo today (Tuesday) and they have sent us a letter saying that they’re inviting us for a meeting on the 4th May to continue the negotiations on wages and salaries. I believe that CEO has the authority to get it resolved so we’re very hopeful that the matter could be resolved and would be resolved,” Narine said in an invited comment.

Since 2018, the workers had been pushing the corporation by way of strikes and protest for a wage increase. They have not received any since 2014. However, in 2020, the Corporation had agreed to pay a five per cent across the board increase with the promise that they would also pay retroactive increases for 2019. The five per cent increase for 2020 was open for further discussion.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha has since noted that the Government did not make any promises to the workers in relation to pay increases.

“It is not the Government. The sugar workers need to be clear. I saw that GuySuCo met with the workers and said that they would look at their request. As a Government, we don’t interfere with management and Union negotiations,” the Minister had explained.

Addressing the issue of wage and salary increases, Mustapha said the workers should take note that over the past eight months, huge sums of money has been injected into the sugar industry, especially to revive the closed estates.

The Rose Hall Estate is scheduled to commence grinding operations by the second crop in 2022. Both the Enmore and Skeldon sugar estates are also on stream to become operational shortly after that. According to Mustapha, Government endeavours to work with GuySuCo to see in what way they might be able to assist.

“We also have to look at GuySuCo’s ability to pay. We have been putting funds into GuySuCo over the last nine months in order to develop GuySuCo. As a matter of fact, we are starting to see results already from some of the estates.”

On the protest line, a cane harvester explained that the CEO had requested that they put forward their proposals for the retroactive increases which included 2019, 2020 and 2021.
“I have copies of letters which was sent to GuySuCo since 2019, explaining our proposal and on October 6, a similar letter was penned to the CEO of GuySuCo, Sasenarine Singh. So, to ask us to submit proposals again is an eye pass to us as workers,” he said on Monday.

On the other hand, workers who fall under the umbrella of the National Association of Commercial and Industrial Employees (NACIE) did not participate in the strike. Those employees say they do not think they are getting the kind of support they should from their Union.