The Guyana Agricultural & General Workers’ Union (GAWU) is disappointed that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) would not be paying the Annual Production Incentive (API) to workers’ this year.
Head of GAWU, Komal Chand told the media last week that GuySuCo engaged them in a meeting, based on the union’s request, and “concluded their position to say that the answer finally is ‘we don’t have any increase to give you with respect to API this year’.”
At the meeting on Thursday, which lasted for a few hours, he said the union sought to have a day’s pay as API for every 2,500 tonnes of sugar.
According to him, “GuySuCo responded to say that we must establish the basis for them to engage us on the matter. We responded promptly that the basis for our engagement is that an award must be made… It has always been made with respect to the production,” regardless of the quantity.
GuySuCo is in a serious financial crisis and has not paid wage increases over the last two years.
The API, which used to be called Annual Production Bonus, he said, is around 52-years-old. The union feared that GuySuCo would say that production would be “very low this year… So we said no, no it is based on whatever you produce.”
He said he reminded them that, “In 1990, the production was 129,920 tonnes of sugar and the workers got five days’ pay. In 2013, the production was 186,000 tonnes and they got five days’ pay.”
He also reiterated that it has “nothing to do with the quantum of the production but the fact that they produced sugar.”
According to him, “It would be the first time in 64 years that the sugar workers would get no API for their efforts for this year.
He said they are “hoping to discuss the matter further and to engage the attention of the Ministry of Social Protection”.
He also pointed out that GuySuCo’s revised target is 194,000 tonnes of sugar, from an original target of 242,000 that was mentioned in the National Budget of 2016.
“They revised that and they blamed the El Nino weather condition.
When they announced their target and informed the Minister [of Agriculture, Noel Holder] they knew about the weather condition. They were also aware that it would last for approximately [from] August 2015 to around April 2016.”
He said that it turned out that GuySuCo never had the amount of cane in the fields that it claimed to have “so they blamed the weather.”
He said too that GuySuCo informed them at the meeting that they would not be able to make more than 186,000 tonnes.
Chand said that figure is not far from the revised target, noting that in the past GuySuCo “made less when you view it from the percentage factor and they pay API.”
He pointed out that GAWU was able to “establish at the meeting that although they produced less, the revenue from sugar would be greater than last year because the world price for sugar has moved from roughly US 14 cents per pound in May 2015 to approximately US 20 cents per pound.”
The finance at the bank, from the statement they received on GuySuCo’s 2015 account showed that the corporation is in a better position financially with respect to their bank balance.
He noted that “even if they have debt, that doesn’t restrict them to pay and commit themselves to what they workers ought to get; incentive and raise in pay.”
Last year, the sugar workers embarked on picketing exercises countrywide because they did not receive their API. The union had said that as government workers, sugar workers must not be denied getting government bonus.
The workers felt “justifiably that they had been singled out for discrimination notwithstanding the acknowledgement of their hard and dedicated work…”