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#1 2017-08-12 14:50:21

Registered: 2017-03-04
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2015, has largely been a dismal year for Sugar Workers and indicators are not promising for the future. The working-class clearly will have to struggle on several fronts, among which are to protect their economic gains and rights, while simultaneously demanding improvement in their lives at all levels.These were the sentiments expressed by President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) Komal Chand in the presence of Kenneth Joseph, General Secretary of the National Association of Agriculture, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) on Thursday last, as both unions held their end-of-year press conference to reflect and highlight issues that affect the workers they represent.However, while admitting that some issues were dissolved in 2015, Chand stated that some will “roll over” into 2016.SUGAR COMMISSION OF INQUIRY – PRIVATISATION GAWU stated that it welcomes the release of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Sugar Industry. However, while the Union claims that it is yet to become conversant with its main findings, it was able to “glean” that privatisation and lease of cane lands were prominently expressed.Because recommendations of this nature have been made before, GAWU revealed that this direction holds the promise of many troubles, especially for the workers, and even for the economy therefore, GAWU reiterated its objection to the approach to privatise GuySuCo.GAWU, in its presentation to the Commission said – among other things – “as to privatization, we passed through that era. For the workers, that era was painful, bloody, brutal and ruthless; and the industry gave us several martyrs out of the many struggles that took place. We do not need to go back to that time”.The Union continued that Guyana has come a long way with sugar, and it is an integral part of Guyana’s history hence, they are confident it can lift out if its “current difficulties without having to be sold off.“Indeed, if private owners can make it a success, why can’t the State owners do likewise? It is a part of strengthening our economic independence.” GAWU stated.SUGAR INDUSTRY WAGE/SALARY INCREASEGAWU expressed that 2015 would be indelible in the workers’ memory as the year when, for the first time in 31years, they were not granted a pay increase despite, “the rising cost of living and their exceptional performance” in surpassing the sugar target by 3,721 tonnes – a feat which they claim, was last achieved over a decade ago.In this regard, GAWU said that it will focus attention on GuySuCo’s refusal to engage them in wage negotiations since the refusal – by a State Corporation – is a breach of Article 147 of the Constitution, which GAWU noted “…is in defiance of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 98; is in breach of the Trade Union Recognition Act (TURA); has ignored the GAWU/GuySuCo Agreement, and is another disregard of principles zealously guarded in democratic societies”.The Union continued that GuySuCo’s stance, which is “tantamount to discrimination” against 34 per cent of the State’s employees, cannot, in its view, be divorced from a statement emanating from the Prime Minister’s Office on November 06, 2015,Ousmane Dembele Jersey, which stated,Zlatan Ibrahimovic Jersey, “It would be therefore ill-advised, and indeed premature, to commence wage talks”.OUTSTANDING MONIES FROM GUYSUCOGAWU and the GAWU Co-operative Credit Union Society Limited are still to have millions of dollars remitted by GuySuCo.GAWU continued that the State-owned Corporation, which collected the large sums of money on behalf of the Union and Credit Union, failed to deliver same, and while current deductions are being paid – which GAWU is appreciative of – it is expected that, within the first quarter of 2016, GuySuCo would settle the payments owed to the two workers’ bodies, which is approximately $300M.Sugar workers reportedly took another “blow” via the Annual Production Incentive (API) scheme.The API which was started sixty-two (62) years ago as Annual Production Bonus (APB) and despite five (5) meetings to arrive at a reasonable settlement, GAWU stated that GuySuCo “took an adamant,Ryan Ramczyk Womens Jersey, even arrogant position, not shifting from its original offer of one (1) day’s pay for 85,000 tonnes of sugar produced. This works out to 2.72 days’ pay for 2015, which is to be paid in March 2016.”The Union regarded this offer as” one of the worst in living memory” which they see as a disincentive to their workers and as stoking unhealthy relations in the industry at this “critical time”The Union in 2016,Nazair Jones Seahawks Jersey, is hoping that the Ministry of Social Protection will intervene,Taylor Moton Panthers Jersey, as the issue is at conciliation, in order that a just settlement could be arrived at.$50,000 BONUS FOR SUGAR WORKERSThe Union stated that with no pay increase and an “unacceptable offer” as API, they were hopeful that the $50,000 awarded to State employees would have been extended to sugar workers, especially in a season in which ‘compassion’ and ‘goodwill’ are emphasized.However, a claimed representation to Minister of Finance Winston Jordan was said to have brought disappointment.GAWU stated that a Technical Assistant responded to its letter on December 16 saying that the Minister (Jordan) had received and noted their letter however, Jordan – according to GAWU – had reportedly said in another section of the media on December 18 that,Anthony DeSclafani Reds Jersey, “The money that we have paid to the public servants is more or less all that we had, and we thought that they needed to benefit…We don’t have any more money – not [at] this stage”.These statements were described by GAWU as “vexing” and continued that it came against the backdrop of “huge amounts of money found to pay exorbitant salaries to high Government Officials, even though they are new at their work and the responsibilities taken”.DANIEL STEPHENThe Union continued that while the estimated 16,000 sugar workers are being treated “shabbily and callously”, there was a bright spot which was the story of Daniel Stephen.On December 21, 2015, Stephen was reinstated following renewed representation by the Union to the Ministry of Social Protection. In the case of Stephen, the Union stated that they were convinced that his dismissal was unjust, and steps provided by the Grievance Procedure to redress the wrong were utilized.The fight for justice for Stephen took the form of solidarity strikes by his fellow workers, various representations, arbitration, court proceedings, and even more representation.GAWU related that these actions were uncalled for “but it does show what a worker must go through in a system and in societies where his class does not sit around the table of decision-makers.”


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