GuySuCo pillories GAWU over spate of sugar industry strikes

Skeldon cane cutters gathered outside of the Skeldon Estate during a protest yesterday morning. (GAWU photo)

GuySuCo yesterday blasted GAWU for strikes over the last two weeks by cane cutters on a number of estates, while saying that the sugar industry cannot afford the stoppages.

A large number of cane cutters from the Skeldon Estate staged a protest yesterday morning after they claimed they were being paid poorly by GuySuCo for clearing vine-infested canes.

A press release from the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) subsequently said that the workers related that they were required to put “significant additional effort” into cutting canes that are infested with vines and they are not being remunerated adequately.

Skeldon cane cutters gathered outside of the Skeldon Estate during a protest yesterday morning. (GAWU photo)

“The workers were also informed by the Skeldon management that they must also cut all the canes they are assigned before they could receive their extra payments,” the statement said, while pointing out that it was related by the workers that their extra payments are relative to the size of the task they completed, which they said was not discussed with them prior to the announcement.

The release also stated that attempts by GAWU to find a solution with the management failed and it is seeking to have an engagement with the sugar company at a central level.

However, GuySuCo also released a statement yesterday declaring that it was disappointed with the union’s “unwillingness to keep the door of the Corporation open.”

It went on to charge that GAWU has organised a number of protests across the industry during the past two weeks, which goes against its cries about keeping the doors of the sugar company open.

“This is a very critical point for GuySuCo. The Management is working tirelessly to bring stability to the business. Having spent millions of dollars on repairs and maintenance during the Out-of-Crop period, all of its good efforts are being stymied by a Union that has not evolved with time,” the statement argued, while pointing out that on Monday, employees from the Rose Hall Estate were on a strike, demanding to cut and stack canes for bell loading.

“…While this demand was being made, there were 120 punts of canes on the ground to be loaded by the bell loaders. Further, the area where they were working was not bell loader-friendly due to the high dam beds and they were well aware of this. The strike lasted one day,” the statement disclosed, while adding that on Tuesday, employees from the Albion Estate went on strike after they were reportedly unhappy with the sugar company’s inability to pay their wages on September 15. The corporation said that the strike was called even after GuySuCo had informed the union and the other stakeholders that there would be a delay in payment.

On the same day, employees from the Blairmont Estate also laid down their tools citing the poor burning of canes as their reason.

The following day, Rose Hall Estate employees also went on a strike, after they claimed that they were told that payment of their wages would not be made on the promised day, despite the sugar company assuring them that the wages for the week ending September 15, would have been paid the same day.

Additionally, on Thursday, employees from Skeldon estate started their strike, demanding to be paid obstacle payments, despite not completing their assigned work. They continued their protests yesterday, even after they had not yet completed their task.

On Thursday, the Corporation said that Albion Estate employees called a strike demanding confirmation from management that wages would be paid yesterday.

Uitvlugt Estate workers yesterday also struck, claiming, the corporation said, that they had been told by GAWU that no wages would be paid yesterday. This happened even though estate management had assured that they would be paid yesterday, the Corporation said.

According to the sugar company, the Skeldon Estate only started its first crop for the year this week and “and while a wise approach would have been for GAWU to encourage the employees to make the best of the crop, the Union  instead, called a strike on the first day of the crop.”

The statement said that GuySuCo interprets the actions by the Union as a systematic plan to frustrate the efforts to achieve its targets for this crop and the industry by extension.

“What the Corporation would like the Union to recognize, is that the sugar world has changed and is changing rapidly, hence if GAWU continues with its systematic anti-business, anti-growth and  anti-progress rules of engagement, GuySuCo will continue to be uncompetitive,” the statement said, while adding that the time has come for GAWU to decide whether they support sustainability of the sugar industry or are  against it, however, they cannot advocate for its sustainability “without corresponding behaviour.”

The statement added that the sugar company is encouraging its employees to examine the state of the industry and the “response of the Union” and decide whether they will be supporting GuySuCo to ensure a successful second crop.

The statement said that for the week ending September 15, wages were paid at all estates on Wednesday and wages for the week ending on Friday were paid the same day, as such, all payments to employees are up-to-date and the delay last week was an exception and “not the norm in the Corporation.”

At the start of the week, GuySuCo, due to a cash flow problem, held an emergency meeting with the government. An arrangement has since been reached for the government to purchase land from the corporation.



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