$260M retroactive payout for sugar workers

Following a decision taken by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), some 1,700 sugar workers are expected to receive retroactive payments from the corporation for the period between January 1 and July 2 this year.

The payout is expected to cost GuySuCo approximately $260 million.

According to a release issued by Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) on Thursday, GuySuCo had decided with effect from July 3, to increase the rate-of-pay of all unionised workers by five per cent. This decision, the release noted would mean that the retroactive payments which will be made will cover the period prior to July 3 for work done in 2011.

According to the release, on December 22 last year, President Bharrat Jagdeo intervened in the wage/salary dispute between GAWU and GuySuCo. At a meeting at the Guyana International Conference Centre where he addressed a representative body of sugar workers from the various estates, the head of state indicated that the administration would award a five per cent rise in pay.

However, GAWU said, the president did not approve the consequential rise in the rate-of-pay. In fact, the body said, he established a conditionality, stating that “if we achieve the target for next year (2011), the five per cent becomes permanent”.

GAWU said the conditionality meant that “only at the end of this year (2011) on the achievement of 298,879 tonnes of sugar, the workers would be able to have their rate-of-pay increased by five per cent in keeping with the one-off five per cent pay on their earnings last year (2010).” The body stated that it strenuously opposed the conditionality and maintained its relentless call for the new rate.

GAWU stated that early this year, it was informed by GuySuCo that the corporation would approve the increase in the rate-of-pay if the first crop target of 138,791 tonnes sugar is attained. The union said it disagreed with the stipulation again, this time to an adjusted conditionality.

GAWU stated that on June 16, 2011 at the Enmore Martyrs Rally, its leader Komal Chand said among others things, “I need to lament the non-implementation of a five per cent rise in the rate of pay of sugar workers from January 1, 2011. Workers in the public and private sectors got new rates of pay this year based on their increase in pay last year. While sugar workers got a five per cent increase in pay, they are still paid at their 2009 rates of pay. It is most discriminatory to treat the nation’s sugar workers so disrespectfully. Sugar workers are becoming incensed at the procrastination.”

The corporation informed the union at a meeting held subsequently on July 20 that it would implement the new rate-of-pay without any conditionality. GAWU said it was recognised that should the corporation hold on to its “spurious conditionality,”  sugar workers, from the beginning of the second crop this year, which started at Rose Hall Estate on July 11, would engage in actions to press their right to receive the new rate.

The two parties are already engaged in negotiations for pay increases for this year. The release stated that GuySuCo offered a five per cent pay rise before the commencement of the negotiations while the union is seeking a 12% increase. The two parties met on three occasions and discussions so far surround other claims made by GAWU.

Next week the two parties would begin discussions on the union’s wage claim.

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