The Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), today, said that it has reached an interim agreement with GuySuCo on increased pay for sugar workers.
Following is a statement from GAWU:
Sugar workers have begun to benefit from increased rates-of-pay arising from an agreement between the GAWU and the GuySuCo. Through the agreement reached, piece-rated workers are benefitting from a 5 per cent rise in pay; time-rated workers will receive an increase of $20 per hour, and monthly-paid staffers will receive an increase of $4,100 per month. Apart from those improvements, certain increases have been approved with respect to a number of allowances enjoyed by workers.
The GAWU at an engagement with the Corporation on April 03, 2020 proposed the implementation of the new rates retroactive to January 01, 2020 while the parties continue discussions regarding retroactive payments for 2019. We reiterated our proposal in our correspondences to the Corporation of April 08 and 27, 2020. The Union, at this time, re-emphasizes our strong conviction that the period of retroactivity ought to commence from January 01, 2019. Our position, in this regard, takes into account that the discussions between the GAWU and the GuySuCo flowed from our 2019 claims. Moreover, as we have pointed out previously, other improvements that were approved by GuySuCo during the discussions of our claims were implemented with effect from January 01, 2019. It, therefore, follows the obvious logic that every single improvement ought to begin from that point as well. Additionally, the Union and the Corporation have yet to commence any discussion for 2020 and, therefore, we see the GuySuCo position as being misplaced.
While we remain ready to recommence our discussions on the lone outstanding issue of retroactivity, we recognised that the workers who have been badly battered by a wage freeze since 2015. In the intervening period, the cost-of-living rose significantly which deleteriously affected their standard-of-living. Of course, we could not ignore too the hike in the even more acute hike in cost-of-living that has permeated since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Guyana. It was against that background we proposed to GuySuCo this interim arrangement.
Though heartened by this development, the GuySuCo has informed the Union that, at this time, it is unable to speak to the now outstanding retroactive payments. On this score, it did come to our hand that the Corporation financial position has been restricted arising from the refusal of NICIL-SPU to release bond proceeds to the industry to assist mainly in capital works. The stance by NICIL-SPU has served to significantly hamstring the industry which is seeking to advance certain works in the fields cane productivity and production. This charade has been ongoing now for years and seemingly there is no end in sight. At the same time, we have seen too the obvious ignorance of the issues by the powers-that-be.
We are hopeful that the Corporation would soon be able to provide the outstanding payments to its workers, who obviously are in need of the monies. We look too that the State, as it has done for its other employees, to exempt these payment from income taxes especially at this time when workers need every dollar.