Sugar workers reinstated after fertiliser firings

Following the intervention of the Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Raj Singh, 15 field workers who were dismissed almost two weeks ago have been reinstated and are expected to turn up to work next week.

Head of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) Komal Chand told Stabroek News that following a successful field visit on Tuesday, a meeting was held on Thursday between the union and GuySuCo to work out the reinstatement of the workers. Chand said that furthermore the union was advocating on behalf of two additional foremen, who were also relieved of their duties over the same incident.

Almost 400 workers at the La Bonne Intention estate began striking last week Tuesday to protest the dismissal of the field workers.

With Singh’s intervention, Chand said there was no further discussion on the matter which led to the dismissals—what GuySuCo had said was the “inadequate application of fertiliser.”

Chand add that the period since the workers’ dismissal will be treated as a suspension and the union was pleased, based on what was additionally being advocated for. He noted that under the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act, the employer is responsible for acting on the knowledge of alleged misconduct in an acceptable amount of time, which he said was not done.

In a statement, GuySuCo had said its management, in a routine inspection, discovered that many cane plants were devoid of fertiliser and, as a consequence, a thorough examination was done. It said the examination found that there was massive skipping in the application of the fertiliser.

In its statement, the corporation noted that its audit team was deployed to make an assessment of the extent of fertiliser not being applied to the cane plants. “It was revealed that there (was) massive skipping,” it said, while noting that just over half of the 226 CWT of fertiliser was utilised on the specified 20.3 hectares, with the rest being unaccounted for.

Annually, GuySuCo spends $2 billion to import fertiliser, according to the corporation.

Questions have been raised as to why GuySuCo dismissed workers so long after the initial incident, which occurred in July of last year and whether the workers were negligent or were just following the orders of their immediate superiors.

Head of the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE), Kenneth Joseph said the unions were awaiting confirmation in writing on the matter. He said there were still underlying issues that required answers.

The sugar corporation’s field performance has been poor in recent crops and concerns had been raised over whether sufficient fertiliser was being applied. In the last crop, GuySuCo was also accused by GAWU and NAACIE of harvesting young canes just to meet the modest annual target.

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