Head of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) Komal Chand says that GuySuCo’s move to hire contract workers for drainage and irrigation services is “improper and vulgar” and it will strongly oppose the move.
A Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) advertisement in yesterday’s Guyana Chronicle invited interested persons with the requisite capabilities and resources to provide contractual services for labour and machinery to clean and maintain the drainage and irrigation channels across the industry.
Interested persons were urged to apply to the Estate Managers of the Albion, Blairmont or Uitvlugt Estates or the Agriculture Director’s Head Office in the LBI Compound. The deadline for submission of letters of interest is tomorrow.
The advertisement also noted that redundant GuySuCo employees can apply and that they reserve the right to not accept any Expression of Interest.
Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Chand pointed out that the union was largely unaware of the move by the sugar company and it was only brought to his attention by the ad in the newspapers.
“This is speaking about contracting out work that is presently done by the operational estates, not those estates that are closed. This is a vulgar position by the corporation that they have not even seen fit to discuss it with us. This is where they are pulling people within the bargaining unit and where we have a Collective Labour Agreement with the corporation and have them removed to have contractors now providing those services,” Chand said, while emphasizing that the union is against the move since it is “anti-worker”.
“The people who do these work are currently employed by GuySuCo and are represented by GAWU under the Collective Labour Agreement. It is rather improper and vulgar for the corporation to move to this position and to not conduct discussions with the union on this matter because they are part of the bargaining unit,” Chand noted.
He charged that the situation is even worse since the workers that will be affected are ones that are still under the purview of the sugar company. He said that the move is even more worrying since GuySuCo had been soundly criticised for its large amount of contract workers in the industry, which he said seems to be repeating itself but on a more serious level.
“This is most improper and there had been many criticisms on removing workers who are hired as contractors. In fact, the last government have been criticised for that and we saw that the position has not been respected by the present government. In fact, the numbers [of contracted employees] have increased significantly across the board,” Chand added.
He said the move is now infringing on the Collective Labour Agreement that GuySuCo and the union would have agreed, which he said is disrespectful and will only lead to more chaos and problems in the industry since they will be pushing away the workers.
Chand said he is of the opinion that GuySuCo is making such a move in order to “suppress a lot of the benefits that the workers are receiving” in a bid to save more money.
“…to have them receiving less pay and not enjoying a number of benefits like incentives and other worker conditions that have been obtained over the years gradually and so this is to do away with the conditions of work and pay that these workers receive,” he said.
Chand noted that the union will be meeting with the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited’s Special Purpose Unit (SPU) where it will raise the issue. The SPU has been set up to oversee the privatisation/divestment of sugar estates and has been making a series of decisions on the industry.
“We have to know how many workers will be affected and what will be the future of the workers and see all that we can do to protest the move because this can be a beginning of denying the workers a right to belong to a union of their choice. This is news to us and that is something that we have to be very much concerned about,” Chand added.