Sugar union NAACIE called a two-day strike from yesterday to press its wage demands as the industry continues to struggle towards its daunting end-of-year production target.
The National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees’ strike came on the heels of one called by its fellow union GAWU last month.
General Secretary of NAACIE, Kenneth Joseph said yesterday that industrial action was necessary because workers are unhappy with current wage negotiations; the union has argued that their members were being treated like unskilled employees.
Close to 90 percent of NAACIE members in the industry supported the strike which ranged from clerical staff to field officers, factory workers and medical personnel among others.
The absence of the factory workers has a direct impact on the sugar grinding operations of the corporation.
GuySuCo made no statement on the industrial action yesterday, but officials of the corporation have agreed to meet with NAACIE representatives tomorrow following the end of the strike.
“I’m not sure why they haven’t said anything as yet”, Joseph said yesterday.
Joseph pointed to a statement prepared by the union, which indicated that workers withdrew their labour after recognizing that the corporation was “hoodwinking” them during the negotiations.
He said the union and the corporation had commenced discussions on the issue for sometime now because of how workers were feeling.
Joseph said that some union members are of the opinion that the rates of pay for the job they were employed to do was at times less than 60 percent of what existed in the local job market.
The statement by the union said that there was agreement between GuySuCo and NAACIE on a job evaluation which was conducted.
A salary survey exercise was also done by the parties and agreement was reached, according to NAACIE. However, the union said that the corporation is unwilling to continue discussion with the union regarding the two processes.
GuySuCo’s production numbers for the second crop were reportedly just over 100,000 tonnes as of yesterday with a few weeks left for grinding. Revised estimates for the second crop put it at around 185,000 tonnes which the corporation is optimistic of reaching, but Joseph said yesterday that “it was not likely.
Joseph said he had no exact numbers on where production is for the second crop, but he noted that the corporation has to make close to 12,000 tonnes a week.
“They are not getting close to the projected numbers…this much I know”, he said yesterday.
In addition, he said that conflicting information is coming from the corporation as it regards production numbers. In September, CEO of GuySuCo Paul Bhim had admitted that the corporation was facing a heavy production deficit; the numbers were as high as 30,000 tonnes. Bhim said then that he was optimistic and subsequently pointed out that with good weather and the full cooperation of employees the revised second crop target could be met.
NAACIE joined the Guyana Agricultural and General Worker’s Union (GAWU) in pronouncing on the state of the second crop. GAWU’s President, Komal Chand said only recently that the corporation would need to push beyond the scheduled date for the crop to end before it reaches the revised target. Chand too felt that the target was far off.