By Jomo Paul
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Sugar Workers are to continue current strike actions indefinitely or until the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) can arrive at common ground on the Annual Performance Incentive (API).
The API is usually paid by GuySuCo at the end of the year and is based largely on the production that workers would have been able to achieve during the year.
Speaking to iNews on Tuesday afternoon, GAWU General Secretary, Seepaul Narine confirmed that the workers began strike action last Saturday, but stated he has no idea when it will conclude.
When asked if it was an indefinite strike, he said “It would appear so.” According to Narine, the strike action is in direct response to the company’s position on the API payout.
Reports indicate that GuySuCO is pushing for an API at 2.6 days which would mean that 85,000 tonnes of sugar should equal a day’s pay.
GAWU on the other hand is proposing that a day’s pay be set at 37,125 tonnes – this proposal would see workers being given six days pay as the API.
With GuySuCo’s proposal, the sugar company would dole out $70M in API payments to the 18,000 sugar workers. It would be more than double that amount if the company were to accept the proposal from GAWU, Narine admitted.
“Having heard that news, they are dissatisfied and decided to go on strike,” he stated.
“The fact that it came down as low as this, the union and the company recognizes that there is need for some adjustment,” he added.
The General Secretary was also questioned about the obvious implications an indefinite strike would have on GuySuCO.
He responded, “That’s an issue that is of concern to everybody and it must be of concern to them (workers). The question is what will happen to them if they don’t get no pay raise and they don’t get an incentive as well. Look on the other side of the coin.”
Given the public opinion that GAWU is closely aligned to the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), there was the question of the strike action being politicallyc motivated and aimed at stepping on the government’s toes.
“I am not aware of that. We have our organization, we have our own General Council and we are guided by the principles of our own organizational structure,” said Narine.
He said that there is no political interference in GAWU’s affairs as far as he is aware, asserting that he is not taking directions from anyone else but the General Council.
That General Council is headed by Komal Chand, a PPP Parliamentarian.