The Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) on Monday dismissed suggestions that its trade union arm, Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), was sabotaging the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuco) with strikes and higher wages and salaries.
The cash-strapped and highly indebted sugar corporation had three years ago threatened to derecognize GAWU because numerous strikes for better pay and working conditions had been taking their toll on production. GuySuco is this year expected to produce less than 190,000 tons of the sweetner- the lowest in 23 years.
With wages and salaries being more than 60 percent of GuySuco’s revenue, the entity earlier last month agreed to pay a four percent increase retroactive to January, 2013. Faced with strike action, the company that said it did not have the ability to pay an Annual Production Incentive (API) forked out GUY$381 million for that bonus.
GuySuco and government have repeatedly blamed poor weather and industrial action for steadily declining production. On the other hand, GAWU has cited bad management and the failure to get the US$200 million Skeldon Sugar factory to function properly.
Asked whether GAWU was sabotaging efforts to revive the state-owned sugar corporation, PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee said he did not agree with that view. “Out of the question. Out of the question.” He stressed that he had “absolute confidence” in GAWU President, Komal Chand and other party leaders who are associated with the sugar industry and are members of the PPP’s Executive Committee and the Central Committee.
Rohee stressed that he had “absolute confidence” in his “comrades” as the General Secretary of the PPP. “These are comrades that report often to the party how the sugar industry is performing, what are the challenges that confront the sugar industry and what needs to be done at the highest political level,” he said
Rohee said nothing was wrong with the GAWU calling strikes in the sugar industry despite repeated calls for the union to stay its hand and allow the industry to produce. “Nothing is wrong with that. We have a vision politically for Guyana and the sugar industry. We have a broader outlook of these matters.”
He said trade unions focus on bread and butter issues but could at times expand to address political matters. “Trade unions, as a rule, do not get into political dog-fights until such time as they believe that their industrial demands are not being met and the objective conditions exist for them to move to a political level and to succeed then they would do so,” he said.
The PPP General Secretary reiterated that government was optimistic that GuySuco would turn around and become the Caribbean’s largest sugar exporter to the rest of the region and the European Union.