Letter: Sugar value chain being affected by GuySuCo’s mismanagement, not GAWU


Dear Editor,

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) again finds it necessary to correct inaccuracies being spewed by the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo). The Corporation in its September 25, 2017 press statement titled – Frequent strikes impacting negatively on the sugar value chain – some aspects of which were reported in the Stabroek News of September 28, 2017 in an article titled “Frequent GAWU strikes affecting stability of industry – GuySuCo”.

The Corporation, in its statement, accuses our Union of misleading workers and frustrating its efforts to attain its set targets. GuySuCo’s spurious statements are another sad and poor attempt to castigate the Union and the workers for its clear and blatant mismanagement of the sugar industry.

Workers, at this time, are hard pressed given they are facing 2017 prices with 2014 incomes. Certainly, in such circumstances, the workers are eager to work and earn in order to defend, as best as they can, their and their family’s standard-of-living and well-being.

Certainly, no worker would willingly withhold their labour given the circumstances they find themselves in now-a-days. The fact that they are now forced to do that in order to defend and maintain their rights, benefits, and conditions tells us a lot about the State Corporation’s seeming ‘don’t give a damn’ attitude to its hard-working employees and their representative organisations.

While the Corporation seeks to blame our Union for misleading the workers, it seems, from our point of view that the Corporation is maybe for its own nefarious ploys, deliberately bringing about conditions for engendering the workers strikes. The recent strike by the Skeldon cane cutters is an excellent case-in-point. Our Union vigorously sought to resolve the dispute after discussions at the local level broke down.

Repeated efforts by the Union to have the Corporation’s Head Office intervene were rebuffed and the Corporation took a most obstinate stance in not seeking to resolve the dispute. While the Corporation publicly is up in arms at the workers actions it seems not wanting to take any proactive measures in resolving such disputes.

Such a direction, we hold, is intended to lay the groundwork for the blaming game for the massively low sugar production which we see will be recorded this year. Such pretexts will then, be used, as past experiences show, to perpetuate further assaults and withdrawals of hard-won benefits and conditions of the workers. The sideshow, we see, could very well be used to further minimize the industry in the coming months, as is hinted in the Corporation’s press statement

As at yesterday morning (September 28, 2017), sugar production for the crop stood at 38,966 tonnes though GuySuCo expected production was projected to be around 64,500 tonnes. The significant deficit, partially due to the late start-up of the Skeldon and Enmore factories, is largely a product of poor agronomic practices which is seeing cane yields being below expectations. The deficit ought to be raising eyebrows at the Governmental and Board of Directors levels especially in view of the State’s massive investment between June, 2015 and now.

GAWU has a foremost responsibility to advise workers of their rights and benefits, that is a lawful obligation of the Union. This we have done in the case of Wales cane cutters, we have simply drawn to their attention what is contained in the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act as we are required to do as their Union.

Contrary to GuySuCo’s misinformation, our Union has not advised Wales’ cane cutters not to take up work at Uitvlugt or to take up work at Uitvlugt, that is a decision we have told them they need to make on their own.This was borne out in the Stabroek News of June 19, 2017 in an article titled “Though desperate for jobs, Wales cane harvesters not keen on Uitvlugt travel”. In that article, Wales worker Eion Fernandes is reported to have said “He refutes GuySuCo’s claim that the Guyana Agricultural & General Workers’ Union [GAWU] was stopping them from taking up employment at Uitvlugt, saying: ‘We put our matter to GAWU that we don’t want to go and they are just supporting us’”.

Furthermore, GuySuCo’s Press Release of May 11, 2016 stated inter alia “…workers of Wales Estate have been offered alternative employment opportunities at Uitvlugt Estate but some have persisted in option for early retirement or severance pay, as applicable.” Though we have addressed this issue on several occasions, the Corporation continues with its poppycock as it continues its campaign of misinformation seemingly aimed at sowing seeds of confusion.

The clutching at straws by the Corporation is another attempt to blame everyone but itself for the situation it finds itself in. Our Union finds it saddening that the Corporation has taken such a stand which is not helpful in its cause to boost worker morale and commitment. At this time, GAWU remains committed to having good working relations with GuySuCo.

We urge the company to cease alienating the workers and the Union and let us together work to overcoming the industry’s challenges and protecting the “sugar value chain” which extends to thousands of Guyanese in scores of communities along our coast.

Yours sincerely,



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