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Sugar workers on strike; Guysuco says no wage talks until Inquiry Report is made public

Sugar workers at all estates across the country were Monday on strike because management has refused to hold negotiations for increased pay until the disclosure of the findings of a Commission of Inquiry into the ailing Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guyscuo)

President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Komal Chand told Demerara Waves Online News that  it was not even an interest in a specific percentage wage increase that sparked off the three-day strike.

“That doesn’t arise now because what we ask for is an engagement for collective bargaining. We haven’t reached that point yet,” he said.

This is the first major strike to hit Guysuco since the election of the A Partnership for National Union + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition administration in May, 2015.

The Sugar Corporation’s Finance Director, Paul Bhim told Demerara Waves that the entity’s position is that wage negotiations would not begin until the COI Report is made public.  “We are not refusing. We have asked them to hang on until the COI report is made public and then we will start negotiations,” he said.

Bhim said that was “the best way” because there was a probe into the sugar industry. “It may affect whatever wages talks they are going to have with the union and this may depend on the recommendations,” he said. Bhim said that position was told Chand and other top union officials last Friday at a meeting.

The COI Report, which was handed over by Chairman of the Commission, Vibert Parvattan, does not recommend the closure of any estates but that studies be conducted on the loss-making Demerara Estates.

The report was about three weeks ago handed over to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, George Jervis in the absence of the Minister, Noel Holder, who was in Mexico on travel duty.

Asked if Guysuco would be revisiting its position in light of the strike action at a time when Guysuco is harvesting cane, Bhim said management would be meeting to discuss the situation.

The Finance Director could not immediately quantify the impact the strike would have.

Harvesting canes lying idle for prolonged period results in les sucrose content and ultimately less sugar.