Guysuco threatens to halt current crop; deadlock reached on 2015 annual incentive

Last Updated on Friday, 19 February 2016, 17:00 by Denis Chabrol

The Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) Friday warned that it would shut down operations for the current crop if workers do not stop their weekly strike action, even as the cash-strapped entity reluctantly agreed to take a pay-dispute to arbitration.

“Such behaviour by the Union would leave the Corporation with no alternative but to put a halt to the current crop until the Union gives it fullest commitment to allowing the crop to proceed unhindered,” said the state-owned sugar entity in a statement.

Guysuco said it was aware of GAWU’s calls for workers to strike every Tuesday and the likelihood of such industrial action intensifying in the coming weeks.

“Given the Corporation’s very poor financial health, if this call were to be answered by the workforce in the coming weeks, it will cause a major disruption of the current crop and would only deepen the financial woes of Guysuco.

It would mean the factories having to stop and start on a regular basis, a situation that would not be financially sustainable. All the stakeholders, including the Union, are fully aware of the negative implications of this action,” the sugar producer-exporter said.

Failure by the two sides earlier Friday to reach agreement on the amount of Annual Production Incentive (API) to be paid for 2015 resulted in the Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle declaring a deadlock and paving the way for arbitration. “The Corporation’s representatives requested and reiterated the position to have the matter settled at conciliation level in view of its current parlous financial state,”  Guysuco said.

Figures released by the corporation show that its total revenue for 2015 was GYD$18. 4 billion with sugar sales contributing GYD$17.2 billion. Employment costs amounted to GYD$21.6 billion for 2015. “In keeping with the established Grievance Procedure the Corporation reluctantly indicated to the conciliator that it had no reservation in moving to the next level, that is Arbitration, if the Union did not agree for the matter to be concluded today (Friday).”

Guysuco had wanted the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) to accept 2.72 days’ pay valued at approximately GYD$223 million in keeping with its commitment to the employees.

According to Guysuco, it was willing to pay incentives for 2015 to workers who achieved 94.41 days valued at GYD$1.099 billion in Weekly Production Incentive [WPI] and another GYD$1.009 billion for Personal Performance Incentive (PPI) by cane harvesters. These incentives equates to G$2.1 B of tax free earnings to our employees. This is approximately 10% of the Corporation’s employment cost, said Guysuco.