Conciliation talks have started between the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) but the two sides remain split on the Annual Production Incentive (API) for sugar workers.
“We are recognising some arrogance with GuySuCo. They asked us not to talk to the press and then they go and do what they asked us not to,” GAWU’s President Komal Chand said yesterday of the state sugar company.
He noted that GuySuCo promised to engage the union on a regular basis until a resolution was found but it agreed to meet the union until next Tuesday. After “robust” disagreement by GAWU members, he said, it was decided that conciliation talks will continue on Friday morning.
Yesterday, the two sides met at GAWU’s head office for five hours of talks, during which Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle and Labour Consultant Francis Carryl acted as conciliators.
Chand told Stabroek News that he believes that the corporation is stalling until the end of the current crop, after which the issues will roll over to 2016.
“Obviously they would like to stall and drag out the negotiations. The crop will come to an end and the workers will not be able to engage in strike action in furtherance of their just claims. That is their [GuySuCo] strategy all the time. They had three bilaterals with us [and] they haven’t moved,” he stated.
He said GuySuCo would like to continue grinding until the week ending December 26, but this is not likely as workers generally do not work through the Christmas season.
Stabroek News understands that GuySuCo has produced over 224,000 tonnes of sugar to date and believes that grinding until December 26, 2015 an additional 10,000 tonnes is possible. This year’s production target is 227,000 tonnes.
Chand noted that the corporation attempted to tie API payments to targets and not the actual production. “They were trying to introduce a new element,” he said, while explaining that for over 60 years the API and its precursors were directly tied to production and not targets because should targets not be met the incentives would be withheld.
The union head said that he could not guarantee that sugar workers would remain on the job as the talks remain ongoing.
Prior to the first conciliation meeting, Stabroek News was told that given the fact that GAWU had demonstrated a willingness to negotiate, it was expected that GuySuCo would also be willing to compromise, particularly given the state-owned sugar corporation having sent a signal that compromise was possible.
The two sides agreed to conciliation on December 3rd. For its part, the union was already prepared to approach the ministry for conciliation after talks failed the first two times on November 18th and 20th, respectively.
The Government Information Agency (GINA) last Thursday reported that GuySuCo remained firm on its offer of an API payout of 2.7 days, which is based on a measurement of 85,000 tonnes of sugar produced for each day of payment.
According to GINA, Chief Executive Officer Errol Hanoman said GuySuCo has already paid $1.868B in incentives for the year, with weekly production incentives amounting to $1.040B and Cane Harvesters Personal Performance Incentives amounting to $828M.
GAWU had requested that the API be calculated at a measurement of 32,500 tonnes of sugar produced for a day’s pay. It later adjusted its proposal to 37,125 tonnes for a day’s pay, which the union said has been the average since 2011 for the API.
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.