GAWU GENERAL COUNCIL ADVISES WORK RESUMPTION

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Members of the General Council (GC) of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) at a special meeting today (November 26, 2015) decided to advise the workers to suspend the current strike which followed last Friday’s (November 20, 2015) Annual Production Incentive (API) talks between the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo). Members of the Union’s negotiations team who are not part of the General Council also participated in the meeting.

The GC noted the commitment and spirit of the workers who gallantly are prepared to protect and defend their hard won gains, their right to increase pay like others workers - so necessary, at least, to maintain their purchasing power in conditions of rising costs of essential goods.

Sugar workers were aghast when they were informed last Friday by their colleagues who are members of the Union’s negotiation team that the Corporation adamantly held on to a quantity of 85,000 tonnes sugar for a day’s pay as API. This is a vast difference from the Union amended claim of 37,000 tonnes sugar for a day’s pay which was the average over the last four (4) years. Last year (2014), for instance, the API payment was 4.5 days’ pay on the production of 216,242, tonnes of sugar. Should the industry attain its production target of 227,000 tonnes of sugar, then the workers would earn as API approimately 6.13 days’ pay but GuySuCo is only offering 2.6 days’ pay. Between 1989 and 2013, the lowest incentive was 5 days’ pay and the highest was 23.5 notwithstanding that in one instance production were below 130,000 tonnes sugar.

Regarding, the wage negotiations, the GuySuCo continues to blatantly breach the Trade Union Recognition Act (TURA) which requires the process of Collective Bargaining to take place. The Agreement subsisting between the Union and the Corporation, at the same time, is breached by the Corporation driving uneasiness in the Union and among the workers. The relevant clause of the Agreement requires the Corporation to begin to address the Union’s claim not later than two (2) weeks after its submission and to complete the negotiating process not later than two (2) months.

The Union’s Attorney-at-Law, Senior Counsel Cde. Ashton Chase wrote to the Corporation citing the Agreement and the TURA with a view to getting a commitment from the Corporation towards its engagement in Collective Bargaining with the Union. Counsel’s letter was not even acknowledged by GuySuCo.

No increase in pay retroactive to January 01, 2015, at this time, and a token API payment for the increased production to some 227,000 tones signifies that an important segment of the country’s hard-working labour force faces a grim and Bleak Christmas made possible by the GuySuCo and the owners of the industry.

Sugar workers are resilient. What is denied and withheld from them won’t be ignored and surrendered. They would certainly contemplate further struggles.