GAWU’s response to GuySuCo’s challenges has been to call or support strike action

Dear Editor,
The Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) wishes to respond to Mr Seepaul Narine’s letter which was published in the Stabroek News on April 1, titled ‘GuySuCo’s desire to put profits above people will destroy the well-being of thousands’ and in the Kaieteur News on April 4, titled ‘GuySuCo is an anti-worker corporation’.

In his letter Mr Narine stated that the “Corporation closed Wales Estate and has put hundreds on the breadline” and is “advocating further miniaturization of the industry through further estate closures and sell-outs”.

Firstly, we would like to state that the Wales Estate, as Mr Narine is well aware, has not been closed; it is being used as our pilot location for the diversification programme. Nevertheless, the more substantive  issue is that the corporation has found itself in an extremely difficult situation: huge debt, aging equipment and factories due to lack of capital investment over the years; lack of the right capacities – human and otherwise; high production cost; declining market prices; and poor attendance at work, just to name a few.

The government, board of directors and management responded to the challenge in a way that most corporations would, by examining their options, which includes reorganization –  diversification and increased productivity. As a result, the Wales Estate was identified as the pilot location for diversification.

The Uitvlugt Estate, on the other hand, has enormous potential to increase its production over a short period from 20,000 to 40,000 tonnes of sugar. However, that estate has been experiencing a shortage of labour which is seriously affecting the achievement of targeted production.  The corporation in an attempt to address this issue, has offered jobs to hundreds of employees from the Wales Estate. Such action would secure their livelihoods, along with those of the 1,750 employees at Uitvlugt Estate, to contribute to a buoyant economy in West Demerara communities.

While GuySuCo’s responds to find solutions to the challenges faced, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union’s (GAWU) has taken the following position: encourage the cane harvesters and cane transport operators from the Wales Estate to demand that their services be terminated so that they can get severance instead of encouraging them to take up employment at Uitvlugt Estate.

Ironically, the same union is campaigning for their members to be given work at East Demerara Estate, yet they are not urging the planters to take up harvesting work, even though the harvesters’ turnout at that estate is an average of 59 per cent for the crop to date.

So while on the one hand the union is not encouraging the employees to contribute towards the corporation’s productivity, on the other hand it accuses GuySuCo of not achieving targets. It is important that the union understand the critical link between the role of employees taking ownership and the productivity of the corporation. For example, every employee at the East Demerara Estate, has a responsibility to contribute towards the achievement of targets in order to secure their livelihoods.

GAWU’s overall response to the challenges which the corporation is experiencing has been by either calling or supporting strike action. In 2016, there were 148 strikes, and 44,500 man-days were lost. Over the period 2005 to 2015, there were a total of 2,260 strikes and the total man-days lost to strikes for the same period, was 813,437. This response leaves much to be desired if GAWU is to be considered a serious stakeholder and partner.

Finally, Mr Narine’s assertion of putting profits above people is totally absurd, since the corporation has not made a profit in almost ten years.

Yours faithfully,
Audreyanna Thomas
Senior Communications Officer

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