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Berbice sugar belt strike called off after worker is reinstated pending probe

Skeldon Sugar Factory

Field and factory workers in the Berbice sugar-belt on Wednesday agreed to return to work on Thursday, after the state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) agreed to reinstate a man who was fired for allegedly slapping the Skeldon Estate Manager who allegedly used racial slurs at him.

The decision to reinstate Stephen Daniels formed part of the Terms of Resumption at Conciliation Talks between management and representatives of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU).

“The agreement further specifies that the dismissal of Daniels Stephen will be amended to suspension without pay until the end of either conciliation or arbitration proceedings,” said Guysuco in a statement.

Workers at Skeldon, and Rose Hall Estates are expected to full resume work Wednesday morning. Conciliation talks will resume on Friday.

GAWU President, Komal Chand said he would be pushing for the Chief Labour Officer,  Charles Ogle to travel to Skeldon Estate to receive first-hand accounts about the alleged behavior of the Estate Manager.

Chand said that the evidence so far is that the Estate Manager used racial slurs at Daniels Stephen, an Afro-Guyanese, Friday night while accusing him (Stephen) of malingering at the Mill Dock.

Guysuco had summarily dismissed Stephen for gross misconduct on the basis of witness statements that the Estate Manager was not intoxicated or abusive. Stephen allegedly slapped the Estate Manager during the altercation.

While Skeldon Estate workers had remained off the job since Saturday, they were joined by their colleagues on Tuesday in a solidarity strike. While they returned to work on Wednesday, field and factory workers at  Rose Hall downed tools on Wednesday. Chand said GAWU had planned to call out workers in the Demerara Estates on strike if Daniels’ dismissal was not reversed.

The Terms of Resumption also provides for no victimization by both sides and that the days on which the workers were strike will be regarded as not available for qualification of incentives. They will not be treated as being absent from work.