Delegations from the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) numbering about 50 persons and comprising of shop stewards (representatives) and Union officials met with the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) on March 22, 2016 at the instance of the latter. The meeting was called to address the claims submitted by the Unions to GuySuCo concerning improvements in pay and other work conditions for year 2015 for those workers represented by the Unions. The meeting followed a letter dated March 14, 2016 from the GAWU to GuySuCo which reiterated the need to begin the long overdue negotiations.
GAWU and NAACIE had high expectations that the meeting would have set the stage for the process of Collective Bargaining to commence.
The two (2) hour long meeting began with a presentation that provided an overview of the Corporation’s financial position and its projections for this year (2016). Following clarifications regarding the presentation, GuySuCo’s spokesperson responded to the insisting requests by the Unions at the meeting to commence the process of negotiations and to address the Unions proposals, announced“at this point in time it could not afford to offer an increase for 2015”. Later, it clarified that at no point in time was a wage rise for last year (2015) possible.
GAWU drew the Corporation’s attention to and emphasized that Collective Bargaining entails a process which involves negotiations. It also drew attention that its proposals, apart from pay rise, sought improvement in some fringe benefits.
GuySuCo then announced, after a telephone conversation with a Senior Personnel from its (GuySuCo’s) Head Office, that it agreed to engage the Unions in discussions on the fringe matters. GAWU, however, maintained that wage improvement is a fundamental matter and discussions on that question cannot be high-handedly dismissed. Instead, the Union urged that GuySuCo respect the bargaining process as that will afford both parties the opportunity to provide justifications and arguments supportive of their proposals.
At this point, the meeting ended with the Corporation undertaking to respond to GAWU on (Tuesday) March 29, 2016 whether it was going to enter into Collective Bargaining inclusive of the wage/salary claim.
GAWU remains firm in its stand that GuySuCo must not fail to engage the Union in earnest Collective Bargaining. This is a right fought for and won and it is dear to Trade Unionism. GAWU reminded GuySuCo at the meeting that if it still failed to engage the Unions in Collective Bargaining it would be contravening the Collective Labour Agreement, the Trade Union Recognition Act, the Constitution of Guyana and ILO Convention 98.
GAWU maintains that workers in the industry will not countenance any rollback of their hard-won gains and benefits.