Frequent Strikes Impacting Negatively on the Sugar Value Chain

The Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo) wishes to express its growing concern over the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union’s (GAWU) continued attempts to frustrate  the Corporation’s efforts to achieve the targets for the Second Crop and more critically to create an unmanageable degree of instability in the industry. This could possibly lead to its closure, since if its ability to conduct its core business becomes severely impaired this would compromise any justification for keeping the doors open.  Sadly, some of our employees are unwittingly being misled by the Union to participate in this very disturbing act which could result in all 16,000 plus employees becoming unemployed.

Over the past two weeks, there were a number of strikes called by GAWU at practically all estates. While the Management of the Corporation has absolutely no difficulty with employees participating in strike action to express their views on matters, an analysis of industrial relations actions taken over the past two weeks under the influence of GAWU, is increasingly a cause for concern. The Corporation has noted that GAWU is responsible for most strikes among the Unionized employees.

The Corporation wishes to remind all of its employees that its core business is sugar cane cultivation and sugar production and not strikes or protests actions. The frequency of strikes, protest actions and other related activities is impacting negatively on the Corporation’s ability to achieve set targets and by extension, to fulfill commitments to the shareholder, customers and other stakeholders. 

All employees are fully informed about the current challenges which the Corporation faces as well as the strategies to navigate a path at this difficult time. The expectation of the Corporation from every employee is that they remain focused on the path ahead and support each other and the efforts of management; and most importantly that they honour their obligations to their employer, which is to give of their best efforts towards the achievement of set targets.

Employees, who for one reason or another are unable to contribute towards the core business of the Corporation which is sugar cane cultivation and sugar production, are invited to meet with Estate Managers or Senior Management on Estates by Friday 29 September, 2017 and provide them with this information.

It is important for GAWU to note that GuySuCo is part of a highly competitive Regional and Global sugar industry and as a business, strikes are negatively affecting its credibility of being a  reliable supplier.

Additionally, as a business, the Corporation’s value chain is being affected every time there is a strike. The value chain include: sugar cane cultivation – planting and harvesting; sugar production – factory operations; logistics; marketing and sales; and services. Therefore whenever the cane planters, harvesters or other groups of employees withdraw their labour, the entire value chain is affected. When this happens frequently, it disrupts the smooth flow in the value chain which can have medium to long term negative impacts and basically it affects the sustainability of the industry.

Strikes have a tremendous cost to the employee as well as the Corporation. For example,  employees who were on strike at the Skeldon Estate on 21, 22 and 23 September, 2017, lost G$4,384,188 Million in wages. The loss to the Corporation was, 1,158 man-days and G$29,500,000 Million which is the equivalent of 464 tonnes of sugar. It should be noted that this loss was at Skeldon Estate only. There were also strikes at Albion/Pot Mourant, Blairmont, Rose Hall and Uitvlugt Estates. One of the reasons given by employees for striking was the late payment of wages for the week of 15 September. At Skeldon Estate, strike action by employees refusing to do a full day’s work and demanding payment for extras, cost them over G$4 Million.  

In the case of the 375 cane harvesters from the Wales Estate who were offered employment at the Uitvlugt Estate and have since failed to turn up for work between January and September, 2017, resulted in them losing over G$100M in wages. It simply means that over G$100 Million could have been in circulation in the Wales and West Bank Demerara communities during this period. However, GAWU has encouraged those canes harvesters not to take the job offer at Uitvlugt Estate. It should be noted that some of these cane harvesters are now turning out to work at Uitvlugt Estate and are earning as much as G$4,200 per day.

The Corporation would like to urge employees to think more deeply about the motives and motivations of GAWU and to be more focused on sustaining their livelihood and that of their fellow employees.

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