Sugar workers get 7 percent pay increase

Last Updated on Monday, 20 December 2021, 21:32 by Denis Chabrol

FLASH BACK: Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo pledging his People’s Progressive Party Civic’s solidarity to the Wales Sugar Estate workers following government’s announcement that the estate and factory would be closed in October, 2016.

Workers of the state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) are to receive a 7 percent increase in wages and salaries, a move that the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) on Monday welcomed.

The announcement today represents a fulfillment of that commitment,” the union said in referring to discussions earlier this year between representatives of GAWU and Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo.

The union, which is closely aligned to the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) said the pay hike for 2021 marked a “reversal” of discriminatory policy of then David Granger-led coalition administration in which GUYSUCO workers had been “treated like unwanted stepchildren.”

GAWU estimates that between 2015 and 2019, sugar workers’ real wages had declined by about 42 percent. “The entire period spoke to the hardship and travails the workers faced and the challenges they were asked to surmount,” the union said.

The coalition had retrenched more than 5,000 workers and shuttered several estates in a bid to rescue the ailing sugar corporation that has not seen a profit for decades as well as save billions of dollars annually. However, the PPP had campaigned in 2020 on a promise to reopen the estates and reemploy workers. So far, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha has said that about 1,200 workers have been rehired. The PPP administration has sought to justify the spending by saying that the sugar industry provides broader support to residents through drainage and irrigation, as well as spin-off services.

GAWU said the decision to increase the salaries of sugar workers followed consultations between government and the union.  “It is without question that the pay rise approved by the Government following consultations with the GAWU will allow sugar workers to reclaim what they lost as the former Government, it appeared, set out to pauperize them and their families.

Repeated calls by the Guyana Public Service Union and the Guyana Teachers’ Union for government to negotiate pay increases have been ignored. The umbrella Guyana Trades Union Congress had also called on the Irfaan Ali-led administration to go to the bargaining table.