Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sugar workers get sweet deal

At a time when the world is hurting from the US economic slide, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) will have to pay $1.3B to its workers following a ruling by an arbitration tribunal set up to deal with the wages dispute between the company and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union.

The tribunal ruled that a six percent across the board payment will have to be paid to employees by the end of this year.The tribunal also ruled that a further 2.1 percent one-off payment must be made to workers as a cost of living adjustment for 2008. However, given GuySuCo’s financial constraints, the company has been given until March 2009 to pay the living adjustment to workers.

Comment: Guyana Fire, a poster to this blog sent us a mail and after some heated arugments via gmail chat, we all concluded that this tribunal ruling has several lessons, some maybe hurtful and others are instructive.

Firstly, this six percent ruling is not enough for sugar workers, but by the same token, its an increase which is better than nothing.

Secondly, the move to go to abritration is proof that Government which has a large share in GuySuco is willing and able to negotiate with a union that represents a large portion of its constituents. Nothing is wrong with negotiating with unions, but the irony in all of this is that the Government refuses to hold wage negotiations with the Guyana Public Service Union. Government has contended that wage talks with the GPSU often end in deadlock. True or not, bi-lateral neogiations are not the end of the process. That is why our founding fathers included a move to abritration in the event of a deadlock. Clearly this was the was the case with GuySuco. The GPSU under the life-sucking vampire leadership of Patrick Yarde cannot even make this argument since hundreds of workers view the union as irrelevant to the current socio-economic climate in the country.

Thirdly, what the hell is this cost of living adjustment anyway. The idea is nothing new. In some western countries, a Cost of Living Adjustment or COLA is paid, but not to workers. The COLA payment is usually made to fixed government benifits which are not necessarily affected by increases over time. Guyana Fire was making the point that a sample of sugar workers spending should have been done and this would have resulted in some information about spending habbits. Fire was joking that one needed to determine how much money was spent on rum alone. Joke aside, this so called cost of living adjustment ruling opens a pandora box because we truely believe that ever worker in Guyana is in need of a cost of living adjustment package that is separate and apart from any wage increase offered by their employers.

Lastly, the ruling did not take into account the pending staff cuts that will prevail when the Skeldon factory becomes fully operational.

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