Sugar workers from GuySuCo’s Rose Hall Estate yesterday remained off the job as they continued to protest the non payment of their Annual Production Incentive (API).
“No money, no work!” was the chant of about 200 workers, who converged at Tacama Turn, in New Amsterdam, to vent their concerns about the continued delays in paying them. The workers have vowed to continue their strike action until all outstanding sums are paid.
Spokesman Paul Austin said the shifting dates for payments of the API was high on the list of concerns of his co-workers, who began the protest action since Saturday.
According to Austin, in November, at a meeting at La Bonne Intention, workers’ representatives and GuySuCo management agreed that the cane harvesters would be paid a day’s pay for every 31,200 tonnes of cane harvested. It was noted that with the exception then of Rose Hall, the targets set by the estates, were not met.
Austin, who has worked in the industry for over 21 years, said that it is customary for the API to be paid in January. “But we were told that we would no longer be paid in January, but on February 24. During last week, we were told by the management at Rose Hall Estate that the monies will now be paid on March 16. But we are saying we want our money on February 24. We have commitments. We cannot tell GPL [the Guyana Power and Light Company] that we will pay them until March 16. We have to face the consequence,” he said.
Austin pointed out that sugar has already been sold and workers are still to be paid, noting that management told workers last week that two shiploads of sugar have to be sent to Europe. He further said that when questioned by workers about whether they would have to wait until the sugar reached Europe in order for them to be paid, management said they would be paid the API as soon as the sugar leaves local shores.
“You know how many ships loose off from Guyana and we still na get pay? [GuySuCo CEO] Mr Paul Bhim say them in debt. We, the workers, did not put GuySuCo in debt. We have worked and we want our money, as the sugar done sell already,” he said.
Austin, who was fully supported by his colleagues from the harvesting, planting, manure, weeding and ‘draw down’ gangs , reasoned that with just under a month leading up to March 16, GuySuCo management can pay the API and then “they can see what they will do.”
“We have eight weeks remaining for the crop. With good weather, the cane can be harvested within half the time. But management is dragging on. Time to shut the shop! We cannot go on like this! We want our money!” he added.
Meanwhile, another workers’ representative, Sohan Sookhu, echoed Austin’s statements while sounding his own disappointment at the management of the sugar industry that he joined in 1973. “Initially, they were good paymasters, but three years ago GuySuCo started to move away from the payments dates. People have worked and we need our money,” he said.