Frequent GAWU strikes affecting stability of industry – GuySuCo

The Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo) has expressed growing concern at the number of strikes over the past two weeks at practically all the estates which it says is creating an unmanageable degree of instability in the industry and affecting its value chain.

According to a GuySuCo press release, the strikes called by the General Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) continue to frustrate the corporation’s attempt to achieve targets for the Second Crop. The strikes could possibly lead to the corporation’s closure, GuySuCo warned,  if its ability to conduct its core business becomes severely impaired and compromises any justification for keeping its doors open.

Over the past two weeks, there were a number of strikes at almost all the estates, an act which the corporation views as the union misleading the 16,000 employees and jeopardizing their livelihood, according to the GuySuCo release. An analysis of the industrial relations actions taken in the recent period shows that GAWU is responsible for the most strikes among the unionized employees, the corporation said.

GuySuCo, in its statement, reminded all of its employees that their core business is sugar cane cultivation and sugar production, and not strikes and protest actions which were impacting negatively on the corporation’s ability to meet targets, and by extension, to fulfill commitments to its stakeholders. GuySuCo reminded GAWU that the strikes were affecting its credibility as a reliable supplier in the highly competitive regional and global sugar industry.

The sugar corporation stated that all employees are fully informed about the current challenges which GuySuCo faces, and is asking all employees, who for whatever reason are unable to contribute towards the core business to meet with Estate managers or Senior Management on Estates on Friday, 29 September, 2017 and provide them with this information. Every time there is a strike, the corporation noted that entire sugar value chain is affected, having medium to long term negative impacts, and basically affecting the sustainability of the industry.

According to the Corporation’s statement, strikes have a tremendous cost to the employee as well as GuySuCo. The employees’ strike at the Skeldon Estate on the 21, 22 and 23 September, 2017, resulted in  $4,384,188 in lost wages, while the corporation lost 1,158 man-days and $29,500,000, the equivalent of 464 tonnes of sugar. There were also strikes at Albion/Port Mourant, Blairmont, Rose Hall and Uitvlugt Estates.

The GuySuCo release also noted the case of the 375 cane harvesters from the Wales Estate who were offered employment at the Uitvlugt Estate and have failed to turn up to for work between January and September, 2017 resulting in them losing over $100 million in wages; money which would have been in circulation in the Wales and West Bank communities. The corporation noted that GAWU had encouraged the workers not to take the jobs at Uitvlugt, while those who did accept were earning as much as $4,200 per day.

GuySuCo asked employees to think more deeply about the motives and motivation of GAWU, and to be more focused on sustaining their livelihood and that of their fellow employees.

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