Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Sugar Corporation Errol Hanoman remains mum on the state- owned company’s foreseeable plans which will be influenced by the still unreleased Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report into the industry, while noting that talks are set to continue with the main sugar union over the Annual Production Incentive (API).
Speaking to Stabroek News on Tuesday, Hanoman said that the only question he was prepared to answer was in relation to API discussions which are to continue today between the corporation and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU).
“That one I can deal with easily. We have written GAWU and requested that we meet Thursday at one o’clock,” Hanoman stated.
The CEO did not say whether GuySuCo will be adjusting its original offer of 85,000 tonnes equating to a day’s API as first submitted to the union. He said that he did not wish to lay out any confidential information in the media prior to meeting with GAWU.
The two entities remain at odds after GAWU requested 32,500 tonnes for a day’s pay, later adjusting this to 37,125 tonnes, which the union said has been the average since 2011 for the API talks.
Hanoman said that he could not discuss what occurred at Saturday’s sugar retreat on the CoI report which was attended by members of cabinet, the commissioners and himself among other GuySuCo representatives. “I would rather not comment on that, Saturday’s exercise. I am sure the government will issue a release,” he told Stabroek News.
Observers have raised questions about the CoI report and the government’s handling of it. The report was handed over to the Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder on October 20 but it has remained exclusively with members of cabinet. Stabroek News was told that the final report, which is three volumes, has not been given to the commissioners as yet as cabinet wanted to study the report and pronounce on it first.
As the report remains in the hands of cabinet members, sugar workers have participated in two strikes with the main sugar union GAWU and NAACIE calling for the sugar corporation to respect the Trade Union Recognition Act and commence the process of collective bargaining as there was no definite timeline for the report to be released.
The corporation has held steadfast stating that there will be no pay increase until the report is pronounced on. Additionally the corporation has lauded increased production, releasing statements in September and October highlighting, in particular, the Skeldon Estate’s record breaking daily and weekly production.
The sugar unions have noted that this alone has showcased that the corporation is admitting to a better year which should result in improved emoluments to workers.
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo recently commented on the US$110M Skeldon factory defending its production. That project was seen as his brainchild and has often been declared a white elephant. At a PPP/C press conference on Saturday, he said “Jagdeo project number one was Skeldon factory white elephant. The TC/TS (tonne of cane per tonne of sugar) 17 to one that is 17 tonnes of cane to one tonne of sugar because of problems with the factory that is a white elephant. Now the same factory is doing 11 and less than 11 tonnes of cane to one tonne of sugar so it shows that the factory is working, okay? That is it is not a white elephant that’s a good TC/TS at 11. That is great so it is not a white elephant it proved that point that is all I am saying here.”
He did not state where he got the 11 TC/TS ratio which is below the average industrywide ratio and has not been corroborated by GuySuCo.
Jagdeo continued that “the increase in production, they did better this year. Some of the changes made to the factory because we have had have initial difficulties because of the punt dumper and other things they managed to fix that plus we had good weather. We had better weather and stuff like that so you did have more cane going through the factory so I don’t want to knock any production increase because I am happy about it, but I’m saying white elephant project number one that was under Jagdeo that it (was) justified.”
Originally, the Skeldon factory, which has been riddled with costly problems, was supposed to produce 110,000 tonnes of sugar annually. For this year’s first crop, the Skeldon estate barely managed to produce 8,000 tonnes, missing its 17,200-tonne production target by more than half.
On October 14 of this year Skeldon managed to produce 515 tonnes of sugar surpassing a previous high from September 2012 of 501 tonnes. GuySuCo produced 9,441 tonnes of sugar in its seventh week of production with the corporation crediting “major contributions” from Skeldon.
GuySuCo has produced over 135,000 tonnes of sugar during the second crop. Total sugar production for the year is well over 216,000 tonnes, surpassing the 2014 production of 216,142 tonnes of sugar.
The 2015 target is 227,443 tonnes of sugar.