The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) on Thursday called off a strike by sugar workers, following a special meeting of its General Council.
Stabroek News was told that while a decision was made advising workers to head back to work yesterday, it was met with resistance from members who brought the opinions of striking workers.
In a statement on Thursday, GAWU stated that contention remains between the union and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) over the Annual Production Incentive (API) for workers.
GuySuCo’s offer of an API of 2.7 days’ pay—calculated from a measurement of 85,000 tonnes for one day’s pay—to be paid out by March, 2016, had prompted the workers to strike last Saturday.
In its statement, the union noted that between 1989 and 2013, the lowest incentive was 5 days’ pay and the highest was 23.5 days’ pay, notwithstanding that in one instance production was below 130,000 tonnes sugar.
GuySuCo is projected to surpass its 227,443 tonnes production target. Chief Executive Officer Errol Hanoman told the Government Information Agency (GINA) on Thursday that sugar production stood at 215,061 tonnes. He said the 2015 target could be achieved and once the weather and other circumstances permit, close to 6,000 tonnes could be added to the final production target.
Hanoman told GINA that were it not for the previous three-day strike in October, the set production target would have been achieved this week, according to GuySuCo’s calculations.
Even with the increased sugar production expected, GuySuCo countered the union’s API proposals, which up to last Friday was for an API based on 37,125 tonnes for each day’s pay.
President of GAWU Komal Chand had noted that this revised figure was the average between 2011 and 2014.
“Should the industry attain its production target of 227,000 tonnes [of] sugar, then the workers should earn as API approximately 6.13 days’ pay but GuySuCo is only offering 2.6 days’ pay,” the union statement said.
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.
GAWU noted 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 said there has been no response from GuySuCo.
“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 in the Union and among the workers,” it said.
Hanoman told GINA that once there is full resumption of work and production restarts, then GuySuCo will resume dialogue with GAWU.