Sugar incentive talks for conciliation

-following deadlock

With both sides remaining firm on their Annual Production Incentive (API) submissions, the Guyana Sugar Corporation and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) will enter into conciliation on Tuesday.

Stabroek News understands that after meeting yesterday for just under three hours at GuySuCo’s head office, a decision was made to request assistance from the Labour Department, Ministry of Social Protection to help bring a resolution.

This newspaper was told that given the fact that GAWU had showcased a willingness to negotiate it was believed that GuySuCo would also be willing to compromise given the state-owned sugar corporation’s media campaign highlighting that compromise was possible.

The Government Information Agency yesterday stated that GuySuCo has remained firm on its offer of 2.7 days API payout which equates to 85,000 tonnes of sugar per day of API.

According to GINA, Chief Executive Officer Errol Hanoman was reported as saying that GuySuCo has paid in 2015, $1.868 in incentives, weekly production incentives (WPI) adding up to $1.040M and Cane Harvesters Personal Performance Incentives being $828M.

Hanoman was reported as saying that hefty sums have already been paid out and that since 2009 the WPI has been the highest earned in 2015. He also revealed that cash flow was down by $675M.

GuySuCo has also held firm that it will be unable to pay any API, once a solution was found, before March of 2016.

For its part, the union was already prepared to approach the ministry after talks failed the first two times on November 18 and 20 respectively.

GAWU had 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. In 2014, API was settled at 4.5 days’ pay, which was based on roughly 48,000 tonnes of sugar per each day’s pay. In 2013, the union and the corporation agreed to 5 days’ pay, which was based on over 37,000 tonnes of sugar per each day’s pay.

On November 28 following a special meeting of GAWU’s General Council, sugar workers returned to work although it was met with resistance from some members.

The union had noted previously that “no increase in pay retroactive to January 01, 2015, at this time, and a token API payment for the increased production to some 227,000 tonnes signifies that an important segment of the country’s hard-working labour force faces a grim and bleak Christmas made possible by the GuySuCo and the owners of the industry.”

GAWU also said the union’s attorney, Senior Counsel Ashton Chase, wrote to the Corporation citing the Collective Bargaining Agreement which “requires the Corporation to begin to address the Union’s claim not later than two (2) weeks after its submission and to complete the negotiating process not later than two (2) months.”

GAWU had stated there has been no response from GuySuCo and Hanoman had remained quiet on the status of this matter.

“GuySuCo continues to blatantly breach the Trade Union Recognition Act (TURA) which requires the process of Collective Bargaining to take place. The Agreement subsisting between the Union and the Corporation, at the same time, is breached by the Corporation driving uneasiness into the Union and among the workers,” GAWU had said in a recent statement.

Sugar production so far for the second crop is above 137,487 tonnes while the annual production so far is 218,631 tonnes. GuySuCo has a 2015 annual production target of 227,443 tonnes leaving just under 9,000 tonnes for it to achieve its annual target which has not been done since 2004 when the sugar production was 325,317 tonnes.

Currently four estates are still grinding. Blairmont and Skeldon are expected to close off as of December 12 while Albion and Enmore will continue on and are set to close December 19.


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