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Sugar workers abort plans for second strike

Sugar workers have abandoned plans to stage another strike to press demands for the management of the Guyana Sugar Corporation and the unions to begin wage negotiations.

A senior official of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) confirmed to Demerara Waves that the workers would not be going on strike Sunday.

That decision to remain on the job was welcomed by the management of the state-owned highly indebted and low-producing entity. “Let me express our happiness at hearing that there will be no strike tomorrow. The workers’ voice has obviously prevailed, good sense has prevailed,” said Guysuco’s Chief Executive Officer, Errol Hanoman on a government TV programme titled “Discussion on Sugar.”

GAWU’s President Komal Chand was not immediately available for a detailed comment.

Hanoman reiterated that wage and salary negotiations would not begin until government- the lone shareholder in Guysuco- reviews a report into the state and future of the sugar corporation. The CEO declined to say definitively when the negotiations for a proposed nine percent pay increase would begin, preferring only to say “soon.”  “. It is very important that we all be patient , wait for the outcome and then move on with our business in the industry,” he said.

Authorities are confidence that if there are no more strikes for the next seven weeks, Guysuco would surpass its 2015 target of 227,000 tonnes. Up to Saturday, 197,370 tonnes of sugar were produced. The company said it produced a mere 4,000 tonnes of sugar instead of 10,000 tonnes as a result of a three-day strike held late last month.

Former Guysuco Human Resource Director, Nowrang Persaud claimed that GAWU has been misleading workers by calling them out on strikes- an average of 200 strikes during the past three years compared to less than four strikes in other sectors. “There are attempts at times to mislead them You can look at the number of strikes for example that they had been forced to participate in,” he said.

Guysuco hopes to broaden its revenue base, get better prices and reduce cost of production as part of strategies to revive the industry.

Figures show that so far 116,227 tonnes of the sweetener have been produced so far for the second crop in addition to 81,146 tonnes from the first crop. Yet to be harvested are 450,000 that will produce another 38,000 tonnes if there are no more strikes. “Should that happen, it’s going to be catastrophic for the industry because failing to take off the crop will result in what we call carry-over canes, canes surpassing the correct age of harvest.

So if we don’t take off those canes in this second crop, those canes will have to be harvested in the first crop of next year. That means we are going to lose the sugar that those canes were slated to produce in 2015,” Guysuco’s General Manager for  Guysuco’s Agricultural Services, Raymond Sangster said on the “Discussion on Sugar.”

He said coupled with the prolonged dry spell caused by the El Nino conditions, a strike would result  in the destruction of the held-over canes that are yet to be harvested.