GAWU pocketed millions to train sugar workers


By Ravin Singh
The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report has recommended that GuySuCo discontinue payment for employees’ participation in courses run by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) Labour College.

GAWU’s President, Komal Chand
GAWU’s President, Komal Chand

The recommendation was made in light of the fact that between 2011 and mid of 2015, the corporation has had to finance almost $18M in services which were rendered to employees of GuySuCo, by the Labour College of a union which has long been described as having been closely aligned to the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
According to the report, GuySuCo pays each worker their average day’s pay for each day of the course. And using an average of $3000 per worker, per day, the total cost to GuySuCo for the period between 2011 and August of 2015 would have been almost $18M which the corporation was required to pay to the Union. This is taking into consideration that an average of 236 persons would have benefitted from the training, annually, during this time.
In light of this, Volume two of the comprehensive report suggests that while GAWU is permitted to offer courses to sugar workers who wish to pursue same, it should not be done at the expense of GuySuCo.
“Nothing is wrong with the Union running these courses for their benefit, but why must GuySuCo foot the bill, especially at a time when its very survival is at stake and there is no indication of any tangible initiative or effort on the part of the Union to stop?” the CoI questioned in the report.
But what was interesting to note, and perhaps disturbing, as was described in the report, was the fact that the increase in number of employees being paid by GuySuCo to attend the training, coincided with the closure of GuySuCo’s Management Training Centre at Ogle.
The typical agenda and curriculum for the five-days course for estate workers includes; opening remarks; GAWU/GuySuCo Labour Agreements; Courtesy visit to Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (Red House); film show: Workers struggle/Thunder in Guyana; GAWU emergence and highlights of its struggles; Labour Relations; the importance of ideology and Marxism-Leninism as the ideology of the working class; strengthening the Unions’ Organisational structure; Capitalism-Imperialism-Globalisation; Class struggle and the development of society; global crisis and its impact on workers; the role of the Ministry of Labour; our National Insurance Scheme (NIS); Occupational Safety and Health Act and safe work habits; Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act; Prevention of Discrimination Act; various forms of violence; suicide – causes and effects; alcohol and drug abuse and social habits (for male participation); cancers in women (for female participation); work standards and quality control; GuySuCo corporate issues; cultural activities; and evaluation and closure of the course.
And according to the report which was compiled after extensive research and investigation into the operations of the industry, most of the content in the curriculum share no direct or indirect relevance to the interest of GuySuCo. Additionally, the report highlights that the move to shift the training appears to be in consonance with the tendency for the corporation to abdicate its primary responsibility for managing the industry, or to seek refuge in deference of the growing “imbalance of power” between the employer’s and the employee’s representatives.
“Since nationalisation of the industry, the relative power relationship has apparently shifted significantly in favour of the union. While it is unwise to pursue any temptation to engage in power plays, it is necessary that the primary relationship between the employer and the employee be preserved” the report recommended. The CoI report also recommended that the corporation invite capable, respectable retirees to function as on-the-job trainers, coaches and counselors. Just recently it was reported that the CoI had suggested, in the report, that GuySuCo should be privatised, given the severity of its blows, and its high dependence on Government bailouts over the last few years. Surprisingly, the corporation managed to reduce its $82B debt to $78B in the latter part of 2015.