Sugar workers protest although no industrial dispute has arisen

The Ministry of Labour (“the ministry”) notes with concern and disappointment the protest action by some field workers attached to the Blairmont and Albion Sugar Estates who are demanding severance pay from the GUYSUCO. The ministry is aware that the recognized union for these workers, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the GUYSUCO had several discussions on this matter at bilateral level and has concluded that the said workers were not entitled to severance pay and consequently, no industrial dispute exists (see Demerara Waves article “Striking Berbice sugar workers take protest for money to Georgetown; GAWU, AFC differ on interpretation of court ruling).” Furthermore, the ministry notes that the request for the workers to return to the Rose Hall Estate has been shelved, and thus, the issue that may have led to the protest in the first place no longer exists.

Therefore, the ministry does not see it appropriate to intervene in this matter since no industrial dispute or breakdown in negotiation arose.  Good industrial relations practices contemplate dialogue where grievances are discussed with management before industrial relations action is taken. It is clear in this instance that the workers ignored the position of their representative union, GAWU, and acted on their own volition or they were being misled. 

The ministry is also concerned with the unnecessary attempts to politicise the issue which, from all appearances, are being furthered to mislead the workers. 

Under the circumstances, the ministry is urging the workers who have misguidedly stayed away from work to resume duties with immediate effect, thus avoiding the continued contractual breach with their employer. The ministry hopes that good sense will prevail on the part of the workers in this matter.

The ministry would like to reiterate that it is committed to, encourages, and willingly facilitates improved industrial practices, conditions of work, and safe work environments for all workers. We remain available to assist parties in reaching a mutual agreement, where disputes arise, in the interest of all sides.