GuySuCo statements unhelpful to good relations with workers and Union

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Dear Editor
The GAWU has recognised the GuySuCo through its Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sasenarine Singh, and its Senior Public Relations Manager, Ms Indira Badal have offered responses to sentiments expressed by our Union over the last few days. Having considered the respective statements, the GAWU believes it necessary to offer clarity to some of the remarks of the GuySuCo officials.

At the outset, both Mr Singh and Ms Badal shared that the GuySuCo would not negotiate in the media. Despite their undertaking, both individuals in their respective expressions proceeded to make certain statements which we believed have prejudiced the ongoing discussions. For the Union, it was the first time we had learnt of these statistics. We believe it would have been prudent for the Corporation to share such data at the bargaining table. It appeared to us that both high-ranking GuySuCo officials, who are still relatively new to the industry, either do not understand or have chosen to ignore the call of the workers for the Corporation to return to the bargaining table. It appeared rather than listening, the Corporation, it seems, has chosen to hide in the media than interfacing with the Union and the workers. This, if true, is disturbing.

The Corporation claimed that in 2020 it utilised 102% of revenues to pay wages. For us this seems perplexing, as the GuySuCo, to the best of our knowledge, did not receive support from Government for current expenditure. The media extensively reported that that Government financing was solely for capital expenditure. If what the Corporation is saying is indeed true, we are befuddled as to it how met its other current expenses. We have learnt there is some difficulties but, at the same time, the Corporation found from revenues last year funds to meet certain statutory obligations and creditors. It may, therefore, contradict the sentiments of the Corporation. But then maybe it is the Corporation is being ran by a team with Houdini-like skills.

We were equally perplexed when the CEO shared that the company “…cannot pay what it does not have…” but yet saying it is “’willing and ready’ to negotiate salary increases…”. We had to wonder whether Mr Singh really thought about what he was saying before he said it. We reiterate our Union remains willing to engage the company and remind that it is the GuySuCo which has avoided the Union and the workers. Ms Badal shared that the GAWU and GuySuCo are slated to meet on May 04, 2021. What she did not say that it was some two (2) months after our last meeting and only coming after the workers staged their protest actions. It hardly seems to us that the Corporation was ‘willing and ready’.

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Mr Singh also shared with the media that he inherited “…an industry that was broken…” and one which “…requires a strategy…” for its revival. We have no qualms about what the CEO has said but we hasten to ask are the workers not an important component of his strategy. We consider them the most critical element and while the CEO recognizes that the company must invest to correct capital deficiencies, it is the workers who ultimately will be charged with ensuring that the company is turned around. To apparently ignore their plight and their valid concerns is upsetting.
The GuySuCo boss averred that the negotiations cannot be rushed as the Management is answerable to its Board and shareholders. This is a tune that the Union and workers have been hearing since the last quarter of 2020. Certainly, the CEO, logically, had sufficient opportunity to pursue the necessary consultations. Moreover, it was Mr Singh himself who committed to providing the GuySuCo’s response at the end of March 2021. To ask the CEO to abide by his own commitment appears to have upset him.

GuySuCo also asserted that its executive staffing increased by two individuals since August 2020. We consider the response mere semantics and a crude sleight of hand. At no time did the Union allege that thirty (30) persons were hired at the executive level, what we said is that we have learnt that a similar number of persons were hired at the head office level in addition to several consultants. There is an obvious distinction. We also are aware too of the Hay methodology but this assertion we believe is an intended distraction from what we have learnt.  The Union shared that it understood some of the new employees were receiving pay levels not at the minimum of their salary scales, as was done in the past, but some chosen ones it is rumoured are receiving pay rates higher than the minimum. It is against this background that we expressed concern given there are employees who have served the company for many years and have not moved from the minimum of the band.

The Corporation claimed that it had remitted to the Union the sum of $140M between August 2020 and now. We wish to clarify that our Union received $31,806,616 representing union dues and $79,398,039 representing credit union savings of workers, an aggregation of $111,204,655. These are monies authorized by workers and deducted from their wages/salaries and ought to be paid over. If indeed the GuySuCo paid out such a large sum, as we have demonstrated it was not entirely remitted to the GAWU or the Credit Union and we urge the GuySuCo to double check its figures. Regarding the outstanding sum, this is a matter that is actively engaging the Union and we will refrain from any further comment.

Prior to statements by the CEO and public relations manager, the public in the April 14, 2021 Guyana Chronicle were told that sugar was getting sweet again. We, like all Guyanese including the workers, read that the company was benefitting from improving sales and new markets were being secured with the progress being described as ‘phenomenal’. The article reported that the GuySuCo CEO said “…the sugar industry will soon be able to ‘stand on its own’…”. But now we are being told that GuySuCo is gloomy. The company is obviously in a confused state.

Both GuySuCo officials shared they wished a win-win situation and were committed to working along with the workers and the Unions. This is a good ideal, but we believe that the expressions of the Corporation have undermined the confidence of the Union and the workers. We nonetheless remain willing to engage the GuySuCo in frank discussions and seek to address in a respectful manner the outstanding issues. We are hopeful that better sense will prevail, and the Corporation would treat the workers with greater

Regards
Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union



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