NAACIE workers suspend strike but no budging on pay demands

Ahead of a meeting at the Ministry of Labour this morning, the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) on Wednesday morning called off a strike by its GuySuCo workers for a pay increase.

But according to General Secretary of NAACIE, Kenneth Joseph, “We will not let up on this… we believe that the company is looking for allies where there are lies.”

Joseph said that there will be no negotiations with GuySuCo until the ministry is met with to discuss the reason for the strike and a decision would be made as to what the next step will be. He further stated that during the meeting, the union will be looking to confirm whether a statement issued by the state-run GuySuCo is true.

On Tuesday, GuySuCo issued a statement saying that207 out of 967 employees, who are members of NAACIE, had struck the previous day to demand an increase of 22% in the existing salary scales and a further 10% increase across-the-board. This it is estimated will cost the corporation an additional $204M per year.

The demand for increases was deemed “irrational and irresponsible” by GuySuCo and as a deliberate attempt to undermine its efforts to reach its sugar production target for the second crop this year.

It was stated that on July 6, 2011, the Corporation and NAACIE signed an agreement that makes provision for an average increase in pay of 38% to all jobs within its bargaining unit.

The increase, effective from January 1, 2011, was based on a mutual agreement emanating from a joint job evaluation and compensation survey conducted by both parties.

The previous week, the statement said, a section of this same bargaining unit struck for two days on some estates for the same reason that has been advanced for the most recent strike. Prior to the strike, the corporation and NAACIE met on eight occasions, within two months, with the last being on October 30, 2012, when the corporation indicated to the union that it cannot concede to the demand to increase the existing scales by 22% and a further 10% increase across-the-board.

It was noted that at this meeting, after the corporation recognised that the union was adamant in its demand, it procedurally proposed that the existing dispute be referred to the Ministry of Labour for conciliation. Further, the corporation offered the union an opportunity to meet with the Board of Directors at its next meeting if it so desires.

The union, however, refused both options, and indicated that the preferred option is to take industrial action, it said.

“The strike basically is for an additional 32% (22% increase in pay scales and 10% across-the-board) after receiving a 38% increase via the agreement dated July 6, 2011.
The Corporation had on all previous meetings offered to review the pay of certain jobs the Union believes to be anomalous in pay. The Union insisted that any review must be done for all the jobs,” GuySuCo said.

Prior to the agreement of July 6, 2011, the statement said, the average monthly pay for a junior bookkeeper and field supervisor were $37,000 and $55,000, respectively. “After the agreement, the average monthly pay for these categories of employees increased to $50,000 and $105,000.

In many cases where employees within the union’s bargaining unit are exposed to overtime work, the average monthly gross pay is in the vicinity of $200,000 to $250,000,” it further stated.
Except at Uitvlugt and Blairmont, where the situation is normal, all other estates are partially affected by this strike.

“The corporation takes the opportunity to implore the union and those employees who are currently on strike to allow better sense and judgment to prevail and to cause normalcy to be restored,” GuySuCo had said.

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