Despite low attendance at the estates across the country, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) says it is on the track to achieve its second crop target, but is still imploring workers to focus on their tasks.
Speaking to Stabroek News recently, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the sugar company, Audreyanna Thomas, explained that despite producing 68,139 tonnes of sugar as of the end of October for its second crop, the industry attendance has been only 57%.
While the first crop this year was 49,606 tonnes of sugar, it was well below its target of 74,172 tonnes.
GuySuCo had ended last year with a total of 183,000 tonnes, falling short by roughly 56,000 tonnes from the target that was set in 2016. It was also 48,000 tonnes less than the 2015 output of 231,000 tonnes.
According to Thomas, Skeldon has had a worker turnout of 54%, Albion 60%, Rose Hall 65%, Blairmont 55%, East Demerara 61% and Uitvlugt 49%, bringing the average for the industry to 57%, a significant gap from the sugar company’s target of 80%.
When Stabroek News did an update on GuySuCo in August, the turnout figure stood at 64%.
The second crop, the target for which currently stands at 124,844 tonnes, is expected to be finished by the end of December. Thomas explained that even with the poor turnout, they expect to finish the crop and achieve their target. However, she said that they are still imploring the workers to turn out, so that the company can work with more efficiency.
“It is going to be a challenge but I think we are going to achieve our target. What we are trying to change is our strategy as we go along. When one estate, which would be concluding their crop early finishes, we are going to use some of their harvesters and send them to other estates. So like earlier in the crop we had sent about 200 harvesters from the East Demerara Estate to Uitvlugt and that helped to boost the production,” Thomas noted.
While the attendance figures are starkly different and lower than two months ago, Thomas said that the decrease is as a result of the industrial unrest over the last few months.
“Last time it was higher because we had, at that time, a quieter industry. Workers were allowed to focus on work and whenever they are allowed to focus on their work then the productivity increases,” she explained.
Thomas said that the workers are facing many distractions such as organized protests and strike actions, which have influenced the decrease in the attendance of workers drastically and greatly affects the productivity of the industry.
This, the PRO said, is as a result of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) attempting to “frustrate the company”.
“If the workers are allowed to come to work and focus on what they have to do on their estates then we see the results like we had earlier in the crop. But when they start to be distracted by strikes and protests and some of these other things it shifts their focus and they lose the momentum,” Thomas said, while pointing out that that when the workers lose their momentum it is often very difficult for them to regain it.
Thomas also said that it is GuySuCo’s opinion that the Union is systematically trying to frustrate the company so that they don’t achieve their targets.
“We have to find other ways to resolve issues with workers, but sometimes the influence does not allow that to happen,” she added.
To attend to the issue at hand and increase the workers’ turnout, Thomas explained that they have been working closely with their “friends” in the sugar dependent communities that are registered with them to encourage the employees to turn out to work.
She said the sugar company has been working closely with the persons in the communities to encourage the workers to turn out so that they can achieve their targets which will benefit the economies of their communities.
In addition to the “friends of GuySuCo”, Thomas said that they are working along with the residents of the communities to also encourage the workers to continue working, instead of going on strikes and protests.
“I think that is a role of the community and while we have a responsibility to improve the relationship with the employees, we also feel the communities can also play a role by encouraging the employees to find other ways to resolve their issues,” she said.
Referencing the workers that will be laid off by the end of December, Thomas said it is important for them to continue working until the end of the crop since the higher their earnings, the higher the rate which will be used to calculate their severance pay.
“That’s a point for them to note and generally what we would like to say is that the industry is a labour intensive one and in order to be productive, to maximize productions we need the workers to turn out to work and not just turn out to work but to focus on their work,” Thomas said.