LETTER: Guyana’s sugar workers have retrogressed rather than progressed under Coalition Govt

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Dear Editor,

In an article appearing in the September 24 edition of the Guyana Chronicle, Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan promised workers in the public sector a pay rise this year. The Chronicle quoted Minister Jordan as saying “public servants will get a salary increase this year and a bigger increase in 2020…”. For the beleaguered public servants hardpressed by the circumstances of contemporary life in Guyana, the promised increase must have been welcome news. How much the increase will be able to alleviate the difficulties of life that public servants find themselves in is an entirely different question altogether.

The Minister is also reported to have said that the specific increase would be a product of collective bargaining between the Administration and the GPSU. However we saw only recently the GPSU President, Mr Patrick Yarde questioning the sincerity of the Administration’s commitment to collective bargaining. It also did not escape our attention too that the Minister did not hesitate to say that if the ongoing discussions “…do not come to a decisive conclusion, the administration… will pay something”. It goes to show that a tiger can never lose its stripes.

From the article, our Union also noticed that the Minister said the Government was concerned about “…providing a viable, livable wage…”. But while the Minister speaks about giving employees in the State sector a pay rise, a move we do not oppose, he and his colleagues, in the now questionable Government, have decided, without any remorse, it seems, not to give the workers of the State-owned sugar sector a rise in pay since they took office.

Today, the nation’s sugar workers, the GAWU must reiterate, are essentially working for 2014 pay; though times and circumstances have changed dramatically since then. We need not remind the nation of the several measures implemented by the APNU+AFC that have heightened the cost-of-living. We need not remind too that under the Coalition Administration, long-standing benefits and other conditions-of-work enjoyed by sugar workers were simply ignored or suspended all together. It was, for the GAWU, not surprising, though saddening, to see that between 2014 and 2017 sugar workers were taking home some G$284,000 less per annum. That is nearly G$24,000 less per month or G$6,000 per week. Given the situation now-a-days, it is neither hard nor difficult to imagine what that has done to the well-being of the sugar workers and their families.

So today, while the Minister boasts about a living wage, a concept our nation should embrace, he forgets, unashamedly, that during his time as a national leader, he and his colleagues, by their actions, have pushed workers near to or beyond the poverty line.  He fails to mention that they have been treated like step-children not deserving of equal treatment and pay.

Today, the promises heard about 20 per cent increase that was shouted out by now-a-day Government officials during the 2015 elections campaign rings hollow. Today, they and their families are forced to pinch every dollar as they struggle daily to make their ends meet. Today, the workers of the sugar industry have retrogressed rather than progressed under the ‘Good Life’ Government.

 

 

Yours faithfully,

Seepaul Narine

General Secretary

GAWU