East Coast sugar workers end strike

-after GuySuCo, union reach deal on quota

Workers from the La Bonne Intention (LBI) and Enmore sugar estates yesterday called off a day-old strike after GuySuCo and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) struck a deal.

The cane harvesters, who are expected to return to the fields today under certain conditions, downed tools over a move to implement a quota for canes to be cut by them before they are paid. Under the terms of resumption, workers will receive an “obstacle” payment for work completed on any job.

Six gangs, representing more than 100 cane harvesters at the two states participated in the strike. Following a conciliation meeting chaired by the Ministry of Labour, a MoU setting out terms of resumption was signed yesterday by GuySuCo and GAWU and it stated that the strike would be called off with immediate effect.

Among the terms of resumption are that within one week from resumption, the harvesters would organize themselves according to standard sett sizes so that there is optimum utilisation of punts and labour.

It stipulates that there shall be three men to one punt; five men to two punts; and seven men to three punts; etc. However, it notes the corporation’s preference of having a majority of five men to two punts.

Additionally, the MoU says, the principle of work shared being equalled to work cut shall be adhered to and that work will be shared on the basis that a minimum punt weight of 6 and a half tonnes shall be achieved and that each sett will try to complete their given task in a day.

It adds that where a sett or crew does not complete a task on any given day, an “obstacle” payment would be made, proportional to the completed portion of the task. Further, the agreement says where a sett or crew does not complete its task on any given day, that same sett or crew “will return the very next day to complete the task unless otherwise determined by management and will be shared additional work so that a minimum punt weight of 6 ½ tonnes can be achieved, all things being equal.” In such a situation, the “obstacle” payment for the work from the previous day and for fresh work would be made on the second day.

The MoU says the union and GuySuCo are expected to meet on March 13 to address the results of the arrangement.

GuySuCo’s CEO Paul Bhim told this newspaper on Tuesday that the measure by the sugar corporation, which has been seeking to cut costs and operate more efficiently, is nothing new to the industry.

The industrial action came days after Berbice sugar workers agreed to resume work after striking over working conditions and payment of their incentives.

The wave of industrial action across the sugar belt would have impacted negatively on the cash-strapped sugar corporation which is struggling to meet production demands.

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