The Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) wishes to respond to Mr Seepaul Narine’s letter that was published in the Stabroek News on 7 October, titled ‘GuySuCo should join GAWU to face the challenges of the sugar industry together’. Firstly, there is a fundamental flaw in the headline of Mr Narine’s letter and on which his entire missive is based. The headline should have read ‘GAWU should join GuySuCo to face the challenges of the sugar industry together’ since GuySuCo holds a legal and moral responsibility and burden that GAWU does not hold. [Ed note: Headlines are written by SN not the correspondent.]
In relation to GuySuCo and GAWU working together, the distinction has to be made between the roles and responsibilities of each party, that is, the roles and responsibilities of GuySuCo as the employer to its employees and the roles and responsibilities of GAWU as the recognised labour representative body for employees they represent within GuySuCo. Similarly, other labour representative organizations should always be cognizant of this distinction.
With reference to Mr Narine’s letter, GuySuCo is indeed experiencing a challenge which resulted in the corporation being unable to pay wages on the 15 September, 2017. However, many organizations would occasionally experience challenges which may result in the normal processes being delayed, in this instance, the employees who were due to be paid on the 15 September, were instead paid on the 20 September.
During the week of the 15 September, the corporation exhausted all efforts to garner the financial resources to ensure that employees were paid wages on time; however, after all efforts proved to be unsuccessful, the management of estates as well as Mr Narine as the General Secretary for GAWU, were informed that the payment would be made on a later date. The estate management also communicated this information through various mediums to all employees who were affected; the representatives from the union were also informed and this was done before the pay date.
Hence, the corporation finds the following point in Mr Narine’s letter to be disturbing: “Quite expectedly, workers’ apprehension was building given their urgent need for their wages to sustain their families and to meet their obligations. In such circumstances, the workers, with the union’s full support, staged a number of picketing exercises calling on the sugar company to honour its obligations to the workers”.
This point underscores the challenge which GuySuCo has in the partnership with GAWU. The corporation is currently transitioning through a very challenging period, and admittedly, there are many disruptions in various processes, including the pay cycle. Most of our stakeholders are aware of the current situation and are being supportive. The corporation is of the view that on the occasion in question, like so many others, GAWU could have played a more positive role in influencing the employees to continue to work towards achieving the targets for the second crop, since the more sugar that is produced and sold, the more it will alleviate the corporation’s financial dilemma. The strikes and protests action have made and are making the situation worse. Did the union not recognize this?
With regard to items of correspondence being sent to the Chief Executive Officer from GAWU, the corporation wishes to state that all communications from GAWU to the corporation are addressed with a high level of professionalism. However, we prefer not to engage in whether the corporation addressed the concerns of employees before or after GAWU’s correspondence, in this space. Suffice it to say, they were taken seriously and as indicated before, they were dealt with professionally.
Mr Narine’s letter further stated that “as we have clearly illustrated with the recent delayed payment matter, the corporation seemingly remains unconcerned about its employees’ plight, and from all indications, has taken on a ‘might is right’ approach”. On this note, the management of GuySuCo is trying to manage a business. The corporation is made up of employees who are members of GAWU and others who are not members of that union or any union. When GAWU encourages our employees (their members) to withdraw their labour, particularly on matters which can be resolved otherwise, this frustrates the rest of the operations. There are also other costs and wages involved.
On the point of working with GAWU, the corporation would reiterate that the union’s labour representation responsibility is increasingly taking second place to its other agenda. GuySuCo is of the strong view that GAWU is using its employees to carry out that agenda which is seriously and negatively impacting on production and productivity and the security of employment. GuySuCo is very keen on working with GAWU as a key and important stakeholder but this has to be essentially on how to improve the business of sugar.
GAWU regularly indicates that production is going to be very low for 2017 in comparison to previous years and the union continues to blame the management while the union is systematic and very tactical in orchestrating the result that they are predicting.
Senior Communications Officer