GAWU and GuySuCo reach agreement on Albion cane cutters impasse

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A meeting between officials of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the shop stewards and workers of the cane cutting gangs of Albion Estate with head office and estate officials of the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) on Sunday, September 19, 2021, through negotiation and discussion resulted in an agreement being reached.

 During the meeting, the Union pointed out that the situation at Albion Estate was unusual. The GAWU noted that the extended inundation of the estate during the recent rainy period severely stressed the canes and reduced their weights. 

Cane cutters are piece-rated workers and are paid based on the tonnes of canes harvested. That weight is known when cane punts are weighted at the factory. GAWU’s President, Seepaul Narine who led the Union’s delegation, drew to GuySuCo’s attention the earnings of workers. He pointed out that though the workers were completing their daily tasks, their earnings were well below what is usual.

 The Union articulated that a worker’s task is assigned by the management with the expectation that certain tonnes of canes would be harvested from the assigned area. GAWU contended that the fact workers’ earnings were below their normal level though they were completing their assigned tasks was because of light canes.  The Union shared that the workers were responsibly completing their tasks but for their best efforts, their earnings were curtailed. 

GAWU reminded the GuySuCo’s 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 the GuySuCo to revert to known and established practices.

 The GuySuCo, through its CEO, Sasenarine Singh, acknowledged that the situation at Albion was unusual. He acknowledged the workers’ concerns as he noted that it required the cooperation of all stakeholders to ensure that production is maximised and the estate is able to recover from the serious setback arising from the floods. The GuySuCo CEO indicated that the Corporation wanted to work together with the workers and the Union noting their critical role in reversing the fortunes of the Corporation.

 Having heard from the GAWU, the GuySuCo proposed that for this crop only at Albion, recognizing the unique situation, the workers 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 limits the task assigned to workers in keeping with long-standing practices. GAWU’s President, Seepaul Narine shared that the Union was heartened that the Corporation listened carefully and considered the concerns of the workers and the Union and that an agreement could be reached. 

He said this augurs well for worker/management relations and is hopeful for further improvement in the GAWU/GuySuCo relations. The Corporation’s CEO, Sasenarine Singh also expressed the Corporation’s appreciation to the workers and the Union. 

He shared that it was heartening that the Union and the Company could sit down and maturely discuss matters. He indicated that the Corporation looks forward to working with the Union and strengthening the relations between the parties.

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