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    October 24

  • 05:18 AM

Guyana sugar workers on strike

rhondathompson, rhondathompson@nationnews.com

Added 18 October 2010

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Sugar workers today began an indefinite strike over demands for a 15 per cent salary increase for 2010. The Guyana Agricultural and General workers Union (GAWU) in a statement said it has no apology for calling the industrial action, despite the below target performance of the cash-strapped Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO).  The state-run sugar company anticipates the action will cause it to lose millions of dollars in revenue as the more than 11 000 workers say they will not return to work unless a “practical “ increase is placed on the negotiating table. GUYSUCO said it had expected to reap 18 500 tons of cane and produce 1 600 tons of sugar worth US$880,000 on Monday and chief executive officer, Paul Bhim, said the strike came at a time when the company was likely to achieve the projected  target of 250 000 tons of sugar this year. "The crop is still in an early stage because we are so far behind and as we go towards completing the crop, we'll have more of an idea of what we could actually offer the workers in terms of a wage increase; the unions are demanding 15 per cent which we definitely cannot afford," he said. GUYSUCO urged the workers to “let good sense prevail” as increased production would yield benefits for all parties. “The Corporation is encouraging workers and GAWU to reconsider their position as it is clear that with improved attendance, production figures would be more significant given the present dry weather conditions; enabling both GUYSUCO and the workers through their unions’ to be in a better position to come up with an amicable wages and salaries increase for this year.” GUYSUCO said in a statement. It said it would maintain the commitment to ensure improved remuneration for workers “but at the same time is urging the labour force to understand the challenges it faces and let good judgment prevail”. GAWU's President, Komal Chand said that the "complete standstill" in the sugar belt was due to the failure of the sugar corporation to indicate whether there would be a pay-increase as is traditionally during the month of October each year. He said that the failure by the sugar company to signal its intention to pay would not motivate workers at a time of increased cost of living, inflation and their purchasing power declining. But GUYSUCO has said that it has been holding talks with the union on the issue and that there was a need for the workers to improve their attendance that was averaging 57 per cent. ““The unions were told that as a result of such low turnout, significant periods of out of cane are a common occurrence on some estates and only the factories at Rose Hall and Blairmount have been able to achieve the desired 130 hours of grinding per week.” Bhim said  that “as at week ending October 8, approximately 1.3 million tonnes of canes were still to be harvested and if the existing good weather prevails and ably supported by better attendance and productivity, then the target of 264 000 tonnes of sugar could be easily achieved.” “As the weather has improved, the Industry has recorded a steady increase in production for its second crop over the past few weeks. For the week ending October 15, the highest weekly sugar production figure for the crop was recorded at 9 728 tonnes,” he added. GUYSUCO said it hopes the workers would return to their jobs tomorrow. (CMC)

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