The Arbitration Tribunal in the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) wages and salaries dispute yesterday (Dec. 08) recommended a three per cent payout to workers across the board for 2009.
Tribunal’s chairman, Dr Gobin Ganga, said that the increase would be paid no later than March 2010, and pointed out that it was they considered view that the award should be based on the principles of fairness, equity, social justice and compromise. However, he also added the Tribunal is convinced that GuySuCo is in a precarious financial situation with declining receipts from lower output and European Union (EU) price cut, and is unable to borrow from the local banking system.
Although GuySuCo is projecting a higher output level of 280,000 tonnes of sugar, the Chairman, who is also the Deputy Bank of Guyana Governor, said this may not result in an appreciable improvement in its financial position if the targeted output is not met, capital expenditure is not undertaken, tillage and planting are not achieved, and inefficiencies are not effectively addressed.
Among other comments, the Tribunal said that it believes that there is a high level of inefficiency in the Corporation, a consequence of poor governance. A conservative estimate by the Tribunal is that this is costing GuySuCo in excess of $3B annually,” Ganga revealed.
He also highlighted a pledge from GAWU’s President, Mr. Komal Chand, that the union and workers will support GuySuCo in increasing production levels next year from a planned 280,000 tonnes to 320,000 tonnes.
The Chairman also said the Tribunal notes the just arguments by the union that factory and field workers should, at least be compensated for the nature of the work they do and the increase in cost of living to maintain their real wages. Similarly, he said the Corporation promises to pay higher wages in the future when its financial position improves.
Labour Minister Manzoor Nadir said the toil of the workers and their low wages are understandable but noted that the three per cent payout to 18,000 persons on the various estates will cost GuySuCo about half billion dollars, which will be added to its wages bill.
GAWU General-Secretary, Mr. Seepaul Narine, said the three per cent is below the union’s expectation and represents a bleak day ahead for the sugar workers and the future of the industry. He said GAWU has taken note of those who want to suppress the workers and deny them their just wages, and made it clear that union did not expect a fair deal, pointing out that his comment is based on statements made by certain individuals.
The union in the negotiation has initially demanded a 15 per cent wages and salaries increase from GuySuCo, but later reduced their demand to 10 per cent after considering the financial straits of Corporation. The Corporation throughout the negotiation maintained that it can only offer the union a three per cent increase. The negotiation was declared deadlock on October 29 last and was subsequently referred to the Arbitration Tribunal.
Read GAWU Press Release on the Tribunal’s decision.
Based on an article by Tajeram Mohabir, Guyana Chronicle