As a former employee of the Guyana Sugar Corporation, I have been following with keen interest the imbroglio between the state corporation and the main union, GAWU, relating to the former’s refusal to negotiate a pay increase for 2015 and its insistence on awarding approximately 2½ days’ pay as the annual production bonus for 2015. Now that the year’s production is at an end, the elation is high, according to the CEO, that after 11 years the sugar company was able to surpass its target.
What I wish to point out is that there is a strong correlation between a pay increase and bonus, and high production. Booker Tate, the British firm, that was hired by the Desmond Hoyte administration in 1991 to manage the sugar industry, and which managed it until 2008 when they were asked to leave by the previous administration, left with the following labour-related and production indicators for period 1991-2008:-
- a) Average sugar production (tonnes) – 266,895
- b) Average pay increase per year – 16.76%
- c) Average days’ pay as annual bonus – 15.44
Local management took over the sugar industry from 2009, and the data on similar indicators for period 2009-2015 is as follows:-
- a) Average sugar production (tonnes) – 218,000
- b) Average pay increase per year – 4.11%
- c) Average days’ pay as annual bonus – 4.97
Editor, from the above data, which I am sure is available to the company, it doesn’t need rocket science to determine why there has been a gradual decline in sugar production each year and why the sugar industry is no longer considered the ‘employer of choice’. The ordinary sugar workers have been an impoverished group ever since Booker Tate departed these shores.
I do not advocate that labour is the single factor that’s responsible for either increased or reduced production, since there are other factors such as agronomy and factory engineering that also play their part, but in a highly labour-intensive organisation where labour-related indicators such as strikes, low productivity and poor attendance have often been referred to by the company as being solely responsible for poor production, it cannot be denied that labour is the most important of all the factors of production. As such there should be no room for complacency, obstinacy, and arrogance in dealing with labour, whether from a unionized or non-unionized perspective.
If the management of the sugar company and/or the major shareholder do not make a conscientious effort to pay sugar workers well, then production will perpetually continue to hover around 220,000’s tonnes per year, the massive state subsidy from the poor taxpayers will continue, and worst of all, the company’s retention and recruitment capacity will be adversely affected, as it is at the moment.