Wage deal could yield 300,000 tonnes sugar output next year

–Agri Minister

GuySuCo and GAWU yesterday formally signed on to an agreement which would see sugar workers getting a 5% pay raise, which the Agricul-ture Minister hoped would lay the basis for production of 300,000 tonnes of sugar next year.

The two parties concluded negotiations on Tuesday while the other sugar workers union, the National Associa-tion of Agricultural, Com-mercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) approved a 5% wage/salary increase by agreement on July 8.

Speaking at a press briefing yesterday at the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySu-Co) boardroom at La Bonne Intention (LBI) estate, Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud stated that the agreement was unique in that it was concluded without the Ministry of Labour having to intervene to bring the parties together. “That is the kind of harmony we need to overcome the challenges,” he noted. Persaud stated too that the agreement will lead to a culture of partnership, to sit and work to ensure that the industry is viable.

“We know what is taking place in the region with the sugar industries,” he said, while noting that recently Jamaica sold its sugar industry to a Chinese company. In Guyana, he said, the industry is important from an economic and social standpoint.

He said too that management happens to be one of the problems plaguing the industry. He said that the quality of management at all levels if not addressed would see issues having to be ironed out.

Persaud also urged workers to continue to develop additional levels of commitment to the industry. He said that the agreement will enable the industry to be encouraged to lay the basis next year to go above 300,000 tonnes in terms of production. “It’s the critical number that GuySuCo needs to achieve in its commitment to be viable,” he noted, adding that increased production enables the corporation to be in a better position to respond to the needs of workers.

Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) president Komal Chand stated that over the past six years there had been interventions of the arbitrators, Ministry of Labour and the President in issues affecting both parties, as he too noted the problem-free manner in which the agreement was reached.

He said that GAWU’s position was reached after much discussion among its members.

He said that several issues needed to be clarified throughout the negotiations, while adding that those were done to the benefit of the workers.

GAWU had been lobbying for a 12% increase but its negotiators “unanimously approved” the 5% pay raise.

GAWU in a statement on Thursday stated that “Members of the negotiating team paid cognizance to the Audited Statement of the corporation for 2010 and the Management Accounts as  at May 31,2011 which indicates that  the cash–strapped Corporation for the first five months of  this year is indebted to  creditors and bankers to the tune of  over six (6) billion dollars”.

GuySuCo CEO Paul Bhim noted briefly yesterday that the process of negotiating for the 5% pay raise was commendable and according to him the payments will be made by the second week of October this year.

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