Several strikes this year including one last month that crippled production entirely have pushed the Caribbean Community’s largest sugar producer into threatening to derecognize a representative union in much the same way a Russian miner did in the bauxite sector a year ago following a bitter row over pay and working conditions.
But indications are that the Bharrat Jagdeo administration conscious of the fact that firing the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) comprising of mostly pro-government workers could spark a major political issue has ruled out any such development even as state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation says it is determined to do so.
Guysuco wrote GAWU at the weekend saying that its plans to begin the processing of derecognizing the union stems from the plethora of strikes and labor disruptions this year that undermined every production target it set last January starting at 280,0000 metric tonnes and ending with an actual tally of about 220,000.
“The corporation has on numerous occasions had cause to remind the union both through public and personal communication that a number of its strike actions were in contravention to their labor agreement, including their most recent one week industry-wide strike,” the firm said in a statement.
The process of firing a union which has a mutually recognized right to represent workers could be a protracted one involving the labor ministry, polls and even a resort to the courts.
But by doing so, Guysuco is signaling that it is reaching point where years of conflict a with a pro-government union, representing pro-government workers have worn it down. Wages account for nearly 60 percent of revenues.
But there is another very interesting twist to all this. GAWU has the support of the pro-government Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana that has vowed to stand by its side if needs be.
A year ago this month Russian bauxite miner Rusal, controversially derecognized a labor union known to be affiliated to the main opposition party. Government did not lift a finger to prevent its firing but has so far made it plain that GAWU will remain at Guysuco because it is a party union representing party workers.