Sugar workers get $200M in outstanding salary increases for 2019 after VP Jagdeo intervenes  

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Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo

Following protest action across the country in recent weeks over outstanding wage and salary increases, Government has approved a six-month pay hike for sugar workers for the year 2019, amounting to some $200 million.

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) have been embroiled in a public spat over the longstanding issue of wage and salary increases for the period 2019 to 2021.

As such, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo on Friday engaged the General Council of GAWU, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of GuySuCo, Pravinchandra Dave, and the sugar company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sasenarine Singh.

The meeting, which was held at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), addressed the way forward for the sector to ensure that the interests of all stakeholders are served. According to a missive from the Office of the Vice President, GAWU’s concerns about increases to workers for 2019 were settled during the engagement.

“A six-month increase for workers, totalling $200 million, was approved for 2019 and is expected to be paid soon. With increases having been paid to workers for 2020, negotiations for 2021 will be addressed at a later date,” the statement detailed.

GAWU said the one-off payment is equivalent to five per cent of six months of their earnings in 2019. According to the union, the payments are expectedly would be disbursed soon.

GAWU and GuySuCo representatives at Friday’s meeting with VP Jagdeo

Meanwhile, it was disclosed during Friday’s meeting that GuySuCo’s management has been working with its new Board of Directors on a turnaround plan for the industry.

As such, the Vice President assured of the Government’s support for the sugar industry, given its role in the local economy and other social considerations.

“We are working daily to change the trajectory of the sugar sector,” he indicated.

According to Jagdeo, work is also continuing on returning assets to GuySuCo that were disposed of in a less than transparent manner by the former Administration.

It was further noted that all parties have committed to continued engagement on the issue.

Back in March, GAWU had accused GuySuCo of dragging its foot on the issue of wage increases and again registered its disappointment with the sugar corporation last week. Since then, along with a series of picketing exercises staged by workers at the three operating estates – Albion, Corentyne, and Blairmont, West Coast Berbice, and Uitvulgt, West Coast Demerara – the two entities have been engaged in a public spat despite them having agreed to meet on May 4, 2021, to resolve the issue.

In fact, GuySuCo’s public comments regarding the state of its finances have attracted a stinging rebuke from the trade union which condemned the sugar company for turning to the media ahead of the upcoming meeting.

Following an outburst by GuySuCo Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sasenarine Singh on Wednesday that the Corporation would not negotiate salary increases with GAWU through the media, GAWU has lashed back at the sugar company saying that GuySuCo’s comments to the media were unhelpful to good relations with workers.

Notwithstanding, GAWU said it remains willing to engage GuySuCo in frank discussions and sought to address in a respectful manner the outstanding issues at the upcoming May 4 meeting.