Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 September 2014, 2:43 by GxMediaWorkers at Skeldon Sugar Estate were Monday trickling back to work at the end of a three-day strike and burning of sugar cane that were sparked off by the immediate dismissal of a worker who allegedly assaulted the Estate Manager.
The strike has already hit the Guyana Power and Light very hard because no electricity is being generated by that estate and sold to the national power grid.
Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said the field and factory workers were all expected to be back on the job by Tuesday. He said the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and management were still in talks about the incident.
“I am glad that some of the workers have returned today (Monday) and more will return tomorrow…I am glad that GAWU and management are meeting,” the Minister noted with the expectation of ending the strike,” he was quoted as saying by the Government Information Agency (GINA).
Ramsammy did not mention that arsonists destroyed a quantity of sugarcane, but instead focused on the loss of production time due to the strike that would have to be made up. The corporation also plans to make up for time lost in July and August due to unfavourable weather conditions.
In a separate statement, the Guyana Sugar Corporation said that on Sunday night approximately 34 hectares of un-ripened canes were burnt; suspected to be a case of arson as a form of retaliation to Steven Daniels’ dismissal.
The sugar corporation denied that the Skeldon Estate Manager was intoxicated during an altercation with a worker at the mill dock last Friday night.
Guysuco said that contrary to the union’s allegation, the Estate Manager in his usual night visits to the factory and mill dock met a group of workers that included Daniels who were malingering in the vicinity of the mill dock and cautioned them to report to their respective work stations.
The corporation stated that on being cautioned by the Manager, Daniels became abusive and was calmly advised by the Manager to heed his advice and report to his work station. Guysuco accused Daniels of subsequently retaliating and approaching the Estate Manager in a hostile manner, and in the process struck the Manager in his face. The incident was witnessed by the Agriculture Manager and a Supernumerary Constable, all of whom testified that the Estate Manager was not intoxicated and nor was he aggressive and abusive to Daniels, according to Guysuco.
After Daniels was fired, according to Guysuco, he was immediately dismissed for “gross misconduct” on Saturday- a decision that almost immediately triggered industrial unrest.
Saturday evening, a cane harvesting representative at the point at the entrance to the factory compound where night shift mechanical harvester operators and Bell Loader operators assemble before they proceed to work, incited these category of workers to take industrial action to protest Daniels’ dismissal.