Strike called off as GuySuCo agrees to compensate Albion cane-cutters
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Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GuySuCo, Sasenarine Singh (left), President of the Guyana Agricultural and General  Workers’ Union (GAWU), Seepaul Narine (right) and another official sign a memo to compensate the sugar workers
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GuySuCo, Sasenarine Singh (left), President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU), Seepaul Narine (right) and another official sign a memo to compensate the sugar workers

THE Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has agreed that it will be compensating cane harvesters at its Albion, East Berbice-Corentyne sugar estate for cutting dried-out canes that have resulted in a shortfall of their punt weight, which essentially determines their daily pay.

The agreement, arrived at during a stakeholder meeting on Sunday, essentially brings the curtain down on a five-day strike which saw in excess of 1,100 workers downing their cutlasses in a demand for better pay.

GuySuCo in a press statement explained that because cane-cutters are piece-rated workers, they are paid on the basis of tonnes of canes harvested.

“That weight is known when cane punts are weighted at the factory,” the corporation noted. As a result of the more than 60-day floods that started in April-May, some 31 per cent of the sugar canes at Albion was damaged. This resulted in a large portion of cane crops being much below their normal weight.

During Sunday’s meeting President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) Seepaul Narine contended that even though the workers were completing their daily tasks, their earnings were well below what is usual, as a result of the damaged cane stalks.

During a meeting on Sunday, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) agreed that for this crop only, cane harvesters would be compensated for the shortfall that the flood-damaged canes has had on their daily pay. A memo to this effect was signed between the corporation and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union

GAWU reminded GuySuCo’s negotiation team that in the past, the corporation had compensated workers whenever their tasks were completed but their cane weights were not attained. From that point of view, the union urged GuySuCo to revert to known and established practices.

GuySuCo, through its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sasenarine Singh, pointed to the fact that the situation at Albion was unusual. In acknowledging the workers’ concerns, Singh emphasised the need for cooperation from all stakeholders in order for the estate to recover from the devastating floods which resulted in some $1.2 billion in losses.

The GuySuCo CEO was particularly keen on noting the critical role that the cane-cutters play in reversing the fortunes of the entire sugar industry.

FOR THIS CROP ONLY
Having heard from the GAWU representatives, GuySuCo officials proposed that for this crop only, the Albion cane harvesters would be compensated for the difference between their usual productivity per punt and the actual canes cut and loaded, or cut and stacked.

“To receive the compensation the workers would have to complete their tasks assigned. The agreement also places a limitation on the task assigned to workers in keeping with long-standing practices,” GuySuCo said.
As the agreement was reached, GAWU’s Narine shared that the union was heartened that the GuySUCo representatives listened carefully and considered the challenges faced by its Albion workers.

Narine believes that the fruitful engagement augurs well for worker/management relations and is hopeful for further improvement in the GAWU/GuySuCo relations. Similar sentiments were shared by the GuySuCo CEO, who expressed appreciation to both the workers and their union representatives. He indicated that the corporation looks forward to working with the union and strengthening relations between the parties.

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