By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Thousands of workers in the sugar industry recently carried out a strike on the Guyana Sugar Corporation, the largest sugar producing company in the country. The workers are protesting unfair wages and calling for a 15 percent pay increase.
With hopes of producing 264,000 tons of sugar by the end of the crop, the state run Guyana Sugar Corporation said that the one-day strike would not result in an actual loss of production but would reduce the number of available production days of dry-weather to plough the fields.
Although the Guyana Sugar Corporation seems unwilling to accommodate the demands for the pay increase demanded by the workers, Paul Bhim, the Company’s Chief Executive Officer, stated that “[t]he crop is still in an early stage because we are so far behind and as we go towards completing the crop, we’ll have more of an idea of what we could actually offer the workers in terms of a wage increase.”
In a statement released to the public, the Guyana Agricultural and General workers Union said it will not apologize for calling for the strike even though the sugar company is underperforming.
It is traditional for the sugar corporation to indicate whether there will be pay raises every year during the month of October. However, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union claims that the strike is in response to the sugar company’s silence on the issue.
The Guyana Sugar Corporation claims that it has been holding talks with the union regarding the pay issue and the need for the workers to improve their attendance, which averages 57 percent attendance for working days.
Guyana is the Caribbean’s leading sugar producer and one of a handful of countries in the region that continues to export sugar to the United States and Europe.
In an interview with demerarawaves.com, Bihm indicated that the striking workers would lose one day’s pay for their actions.
For more information, please see:
Caricom News Network – Sugar Workers on Strike for Higher Wages – 19 October 2010
Caribbean News Now – Thousands of Sugar Workers Strike in Guyana – 19 October 2010
Bloomberg Businessweek – Guyana Sugar Workers Launch 1-day Strike – 18 October 2010
Nation News – Guyana Sugar Workers on Strike – 18 October 2010