Strike hits Guyana’s sugar industry; more industrial action to come

Sugarcane fields in sunset.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Wednesday March 2, 2016 – A day after declaring that Guyana’s first crop sugar target was on track to be met, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has been hit by strike action.

GuySuCo reported that 1,700 sugar workers downed tools yesterday, in the latest strike to hit the sector.

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) says it will be calling a 24-hour strike every Tuesday to press for negotiations to iron out issues relating to wages, the Annual Production Incentive (API), and closure of the Wales estate.

GuySuCo has insisted that it cannot afford the huge investment needed to rehabilitate the Wales estate to keep it open. The merging of the Wales and Utivlugt Estates was one of the measures taken to continue reversing the ineffective performance of the industry, and return it to profitability, government said.

As for the API, the sugar corporation said it could only afford just under half of what the union is asking for.

The corporation’s Finance Director Paul Bhim said the impact of yesterday’s industrial action would be known today.

The first crop only recently commenced and a statement issued by the Government Information Agency yesterday said GuySuCo was on track with its production.

Except for Skeldon, which is due to begin working tomorrow, all the factories have started grinding.

This first crop target is 80,500 tonnes. The overall target for 2016 is approximately 240,000 tonnes.

Although GuySuCo achieved its 2015 production target, it still has to battle weakening prices, aged machinery and high production costs. Government has, therefore, approved GUY$9 billion (US$43.5 millions) to assist the corporation for 2016.

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