[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) says it is calling out the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) on misinformation that is being peddled in the public domain.
See full statement below:
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) takes this opportunity to correct and, as applicable, clarify several instances of misinformation or misinterpretation contained in a statement issued by the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) on November 11, 2015. Resort to this propaganda ploy cannot and will not make the wages negotiations issue somehow disappear. GuySuCo’s top officials ought to know that for workers anywhere, including in the sugar industry, wages is a major concern given its importance to them and their family’s well-being.
Notwithstanding that truism, the Union feels that some statements by GuySuCo cannot be left without a response.
GuySuCo said that:- “It was always the intention of the Corporation to meet and address the API for the current year.” This appears to be a feeble attempt, we feel, to cast the Union in a bad light. While we cannot dispute what was GuySuCo’s ‘intention’ the fact remains that the ‘intention’ was never conveyed to the Union until November 12, 2015 when we received an invitation to discuss Annual Production Incentive (API). This invitation came after GAWU asked GuySuCo to meet on the API issue especially since wages negotiations were held up.
The Corporation also asserted that our Union was engaged in threat-making. We ask:- What threats were made by GAWU? In any case GuySuCo said it is inured to such threats. GAWU wishes to reiterate that it has always strived for healthy relations with the Corporation. But, at the same time, the Corporation will appreciate that the Union is duty bound to represent its members’ interests and can never countenance the roll-back of workers gains, rights and benefits.
It would appear also that GuySuCo is peeved over comments made by the Union’s President in a November 09, 2015 interview with Stabroek News. It is well-known that the truth often hurts. However, what is of concern to the Union is the attempt to misunderstand and/or misinterpret the President of the Union.
One issue GuySuCo seems touchy about is the President’s reference to the API and the Corporation’s “refusal to enter into discussions on wages”. Interestingly, in stating its position on the wages matter, GuySuCo brazenly declares “the Corporation has never refused to enter discussions on wages”.
But this is exactly what the Union has been urging since March of this year – to be engaged in wages negotiations. It is already mid-November and all we are hearing is discussions on wages must await the Government’s discussion on the report of the Commission of Inquiry (COI). There is the strong view that a few persons believe that they are clever in not engaging GAWU on this matter. Indeed, it needs to be emphasized, that, as the year draws to a close, the sugar workers are the only segment of the public service workers excluded, so far, from a pay rise.
Well, what a basis for nurturing a harmonious relationship!
GAWU is perplexed as to what is so wrong, as GuySuCo stated, with the Union informing the media about its submission of its API claim to the Corporation. This cannot be deemed as negotiating in the public. GuySuCo should know this by now. It was also said in that interview, that the Union has high expectations that in this year the API award to workers will be higher due to the workers current performance level. Come now GuySuCo, you couldn’t be seriously disagreeing with such an observation.
Moreover, despite GuySuCo’s contrary opinion, the GAWU maintains that the Corporation is violating the Recognition and Avoidance and Settlement of Dispute Agreement and the Trade Union Recognition Act (TURA) and with regards to wages the Union maintains that it is not living up to the Collective Bargaining process.
With respect to GuySuCo’s interpretation of an Attorney’s letter sent to it that the Unions in the industry have given a 72-hour notice of strike action, the Union believes and urges GuySuCo to look again at the Attorney’s letter.
As far as the Union is aware, its General Council which met on November 07, 2015 decided not to take strike action and this fact clearly contradicts GuySuCo’s interpretation of the Attorney’s letter. Another of GuySuCo’s criticisms relates to the supposed losses arising from stale cane which the Union contends was misleading. Those canes GuySuCo referred to were processed into sugar. Indeed, on this score GAWU wishes to draw attention to an error which could have been avoided by an alert GuySuCo management. The Corporation did not say that it misguided itself and experienced losses because it did not prepare work for workers on November 08, 2015. In effect, by this miscalculation, it imposed a one day strike on itself.
In its statement GuySuCo saw an implied threat of industrial action by the Union’s President come 2016. This is rather surprising as GuySuCo should know that over the centuries generations of sugar workers had to struggle for every worthwhile benefit they enjoy and which, so often, are threatened by little bosses necessitating further struggles in the defence of such gains. One cannot condemn workers and their representatives to stand up for their right and a just cause. Indeed, such struggles should be applauded as the accruing benefits often go beyond the sugar industry. GuySuCo needs to be reminded that for the past 26-years, sugar workers received increases in pay every year. It is to be expected that they will actively demand that 2015 does not become a year of exception.
GAWU believes that the sugar workers have behaved responsibly in the circumstances. For most of them, they do back-breaking work and toil in arduous conditions. They are not decision-makers or belonging to management and working in cushy environments nor are they the owners of the industry. They are simply workers who expend their labour-power and expect a fair compensation for their work. The GAWU and the other Unions in the industry feel the workers deserve an increase in their wages. Negotiations should commence.