The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) today launched another round of protest action against the government, calling for its intervention to get an increase in pay for sugar workers.
Union officials explained today that they had a number of meetings with the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) over the past few months, discussing increases for workers.
The last meeting on Friday did not garner the results the Union was expecting and that resulted in the total shutdown of operations at the Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt estates today as the workers started to protest.
The Union’s position is that any increase being offered must be retroactive to January 1, 2019 since the negotiations were for that period.
GuySuCo has granted the increase as of January 2020 and that decision by the sugar company has the Union and the workers outraged.
The Union’s General Secretary, Seepaul Narine said that more than three hundred and fifty workers were on the frontlines today, as they demanded the government’s intervention in the matter.
He said. “It is unacceptable. You know, everybody else got increases higher than 5%; All government employees. We are not jealous of them, we deserve more but at least let us find an answer and come to an agreement. We have stretched out our hands, we said that we are prepared to have that agreement but you can’t want to shortchange us with the number and then to bully us by saying, No, no it’s January 2020.”
While the Union has made it clear that this issue is between the company and the Union, it has been pressing for the government to get involved.
The GAWU General Secretary said “I’m expecting that the President and his colleagues will address the issue and will provide GuySuCo with the necessary approval to have the retroactive pay from January of 2019. It is legitimately due from 2019 of January.”
The protesters who came from across the country today said they are frustrated with the situation.
Olga Pram, who told News Source that she is the wife of a sugar worker and a former sugar worker herself, is calling for the salary increase to take effect immediately.
“We protesting really fa get the wage increase for the sugar workers them need it. They really, really need it…We crying out, raise we money, raise them money. Them need the money.”
Another worker who was on the picket line said, “We are demanding our rights. We done work for it already and I think we should get it for 2019 instead of 2020, at least is a short notice. It is not fair to us $2700 a day, it ain’t easy; In the rain and sun, plus the clothes ya got on, we need we money.”
The protesting workers are claiming discrimination and they are hoping for an intervention soon.
The Union officials would not say if the protest will continue for the rest of the week, but they made it clear that their voices must be heard.