…GAWU to take up matter with Labour Dept
SUGAR workers from across the industry will not receive an Annual Production Incentive
(API) this year, because the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is facing a financial crisis.
GuySuCo Chief Executive Officer, Errol Hanoman, during a telephone interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Friday last, outlined that in a recent meeting with the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU), the Corporation made clear that it was not in a position to make API payments this year.
President David Granger had reportedly announced that GuySuCo is being bailed out to the tune of $10 billion annually. Further, it was reported that GuySuCo has already recorded a whopping six-billion-dollar deficit in its accounts for the first half of 2016, but this has been
masked by the $9 billion subsidy that was handed to the beleaguered entity by Government.
Thus Hanoman stressed that this deterring factor has also made the Corporation incapable of giving workers an increase in their wages and salaries.
GAWU President Komal Chand, during a press conference on Friday, said that last year the situation was the same, but workers were able to get a little over two days’ pay as their API.
“Every worker should be rewarded for the hard work they do. That is why an end-of-year bonus is so essential to boost the efficiency of any workforce,” Chand said.
He pointed out that the corporation has had lower production rates in the past and had still been able to pay API. As such, in an effort to support the workers, GAWU would be approaching the Ministry of Social Protection for further justification on the matter.
The issue of the API payment for 2015 sparked a number of strikes across the industry last year, and this has led to the Corporation making those payments earlier this year. And with the noted extension of Estate operations to the third week in December, a strike would hinder GuySuCo from reaching its production target for this year. The union has not indicated it would initiate strike action if API is not paid.
During his budget presentation on Monday, Finance Minister Winston Jordan said that money injected into sugar in its current state is money wasted. He contended that it would make no impact on the operating losses and cash deficit status of the industry.
“The status quo of the sugar industry can neither be sustained nor maintained. As currently structured, the industry would require Government’s support to the tune of $18.6 billion and $21.4 billion for the years 2017 and 2018 respectively,” he told the House in his budget presentation on Monday.
This is an untenable position, the minister said, pointing out that it would seriously jeopardise the fiscal stance of the Government, while compromising resource allocation to other critical and important areas.
“Radical re-organising of the sugar industry is required as a matter of urgency, for the continued postponement of the hard decisions on GuySuCo’s future would result in the corporation incurring even more debts (estimated currently at $80 billion) and an escalation of the demands on the Treasury,” he declared.
Meanwhile, the Government has for 2017 made an allocation of $9 billion to support the financing of GuySuCo’s operations. This brings to $32 billion the amount of resources that would have been provided to the Corporation since August 2015.