Issue#: 6 Volume#: 31
Combat Voice of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU)
CHALLENGES FOR CHRISTMAS...
- a good Christmas, a better New Year for all GAWU members and friends
FRONT PAGE COMMENT: No change for them – nor us?
Some wise person once remarked that “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” We may question how “changed” things can “remain the same.” However, if you examine certain issues over times past, stark similarities strike you easily. As Combat – the official voice of GAWU – wishes you the usual best for a Happy Christmas Season and real peace, progress and success in 2011, a backward glance at our last two December/Christmas editions is somewhat revealing. In both past editions, this Page One Comment and our Christmas Message to the nation resonated with the very same issues facing us right now. Last year (2009), a Gobind Ganga Arbitral Tribunal awarded sugar workers “a miserly 3% increase” in wages. This year, Guysuco dictatorially decided on no increase until a certain target was met; a target they deemed unachievable for a host of reasons. So what has changed? We discover, too, that we commented on crime and the unfortunate prospect of flooding. What has changed? It seems better for Combat to assure you, members of GAWU, and all readers, about what has now changed! Like last December, GAWU’s determination for social and economic justice for its members has not changed! Our struggle for members’ rights has not wavered! GAWU’s exposure of Guysuco’s mismanagement and attempts to make its workers scapegoats will continue. The Union’s efforts at responsible negotiation in the face of Guysuco’s provocations for confrontation will continue. For we are not insensitive to the challenges of that Corporation, GAWU knows the fraud, the mismanagement, the dilemma of scarce human resources, and the brain drain. All we ask is that there is balance from Guysuco where its employees are concerned. Low morale and no prospect of increased earnings are certain to influence traditional employees to turn to more lucrative alternative pursuits. Elsewhere in the GAWU family of bargaining for members, agreements have been secured from other employers with little rancour. Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), at the time of writing, has posed problems but these are not insurmountable for a company whose workers have made it most profitable and internationally recognized. Combat notes the wider national context within which all the above is being played out. Continued on back page COMBAT: November/December, 2010
Celebrating Hope, Solidarity with those Challenges GAWU’s Christmas Message 2010
refurbish, to splurge. There is nothing wrong with joining in Christmas celebrations within one’s means. GAWU warns against excesses. The Christian Christ Child, born of humble working-class parents in a stable, did not inspire extravagance and wastage. So, as GAWU reminds all of the spiritual, religious significance of the season, we remember those who, right now in Guyana, have just experienced unfortunate challenges and set-backs. We refer to those who, this year, suffered the dire, sometimes ultimate, consequences of domestic violence, traffic accidents, violent crime, and hinterland-oriented and universal disease. We Masquerade is a usual feasture of this festive season refer to our brothers and sisters Time seems to fly so quickly that, whenever it is time at Barama and in the bauxite to pen and send annual/anniversary messages, the sector who have lost their jobs. We refer to our FITUG sentiments tend to remain unchanged, constant and colleagues who faced employment and other industrial familiar. problems at GPL or DDL and elsewhere. So here is the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), once again, sending its members, and the Guyanese nation at large, the very best wishes for a glorious but peaceful Christmas and the wellplanned, successful 2011. Every year, we at GAWU are reminded about the powerful pull this Christian Festival has on nearly all of our peoples. Indeed, Christmas has become a premier national celebration on Guyana’s Cultural Calendar of Events. Non-Christians seem not to be able to resist the lure of even the non-Guyanese physical aspects of the festival – the decorative holly and ivy, Father Christmas, pine Christmas trees and winter songs. Many of our own members – Christian and non-Christian alike – use the children or the year-end as excuses to decorate, to
Religious inspiration drawn from the Christmas-time legacy of gifts from others must be balanced against economic reality. Faith keeps all races and religions going; but, so too, does actual bread and butter. As GAWU wishes our national leaders and decision makers a good Christmas, we urge them to match their seasonal greetings with real, rather than symbolic gestures. Give bonuses; give practical plans and assistance to your workers for a better quality of life. Give hope for a good Guyanese future. That, after all, is what the birth and life of the Christian Christ Child was about. Peace and goodwill to all mankind, joy to the world, including Guyanese. A peaceful, happy Christmas from GAWU. May 2011 bring better days, weeks and months. Page One
President Jagdeo meets with GAWU sugar negotiating team ing G$4B to Guysuco in 2009, and he stated that the Corporation has now requested that the Government provide another G$2B. President Jagdeo stated that the industry has suffered “from a series of bad management and negligence”, and said, “We have to fix the management.” He stated that the industry was making billions of dollars in losses, and it would be easier to shut down Guysuco; but, he said, the Government has seen that Guysuco can be turned around and be made into a viable enterprise. President Jagdeo addressing the meeting. He is flanked from his left by Guysuco CEO, acting, Paul The workers used the Bhim, Guysuco Board Member Donald Ramotar, and Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud opportunity provided Arising out of a request by President He noted that only in Guyana has there Bharrat Jagdeo, the Union, on November been capital expansion in the sugar in- to highlight a number of issues at their 15, 2010, facilitated a meeting between dustry. He said, “The only way to survive respective Estates. Workers made referPresident Jagdeo and its 50-odd-person was to bring the cost of production down ence to the poor wage levels in the innegotiating team. The team, which com- where, if we sell in the world market, not dustry, and stated that, generally, only prises representatives from the various in the European Union, we will be able the older workers are remaining in the industry in order to receive their pension estates, met with the President for al- to survive.” upon retirement. They noted that many most two and a half hours. At the meeting with the President were Minister of The President stated that, despite the of the younger persons, who are needAgriculture, Robert Persaud; Guysuco’s large investment in Skeldon, the factory ed, are moving away from the industry Chief Executive Officer, acting, Paul Bhim has not been performing as it should. He owing to the poor rates. They surmised and Guysuco Board Member Donald Ra- said, “There is some substandard work that this trend would continue unless motar. done there from both the contractor and workers are able to receive meaningful the people supervising them.” President increases. From the onset of the meeting, the Jagdeo said the Government also recogThe representatives also called on President made it clear that he would nized that there were not enough canes President Jagdeo to provide some asnot be speaking about the wage/salaries in the fields in the past, and agreed that sistance to the industry to allow the negotiations between the Union and focus should be paid to improving the Guysuco. He said that he “doesn’t want cultivation. He noted that, while there workers to receive a wage increase bepeople to think he has come to influence has been some improvement, much fore the holiday season. The representathe negotiations.” He went on to say that more work has to be done. He went on tives noted that the President had given he was prepared to discuss anything else to state that if the factory is fixed and similar assistance to many other persons related to the industry. He noted that there are enough canes in the fields, in and organisations, and the sugar workhe wanted to speak about moving the order to get the canes from the field to ers desperately needed the support of industry forward to ensure its survival. the factory, there needs to be an ade- the Government. The workers illustratHe stated that he thinks “that sugar has quate labour force. He lamented that, so ed that, between 2005 and 2009, their a good future in Guyana, and if we (the far for the year, the turnout of labourers real wage has declined by more than 10 Government) didn’t think that way, then has been about 55 per cent. The Presi- per cent. President Jagdeo, in response, we would not have made the invest- dent stated that all three of those things asked workers whether the Union had ments we are making in the industry.” needed to be in place to ensure that the provided them with the data. Workers noted that, while they understand industry would be able to survive. the situation with which the industry is President Jagdeo said that, unlike many other countries in the Caribbean, the President Jagdeo stated that at produc- confronted, they urgently need a wage Government is committed to the indus- tion levels above 300,000 tonnes, the increase, and are hoping for some intertry. He made reference to the 36 per industry will be able to pay its bills. He vention from the Government. cent cut in prices of our sugar exported made reference to the significant sums Workers also made reference to the to Europe, and stated that the industry the Corporation owes to its creditors and attitude of managers who serve to destands to lose about US$45M (G$9B). the banks, despite the Government givCOMBAT: November/December, 2010
moralize workers, and, in some cases, cause experienced workers to leave the industry. The workers also informed the President about the significant wastage of materials and inputs. The President was told that, at one estate, the factory is utilizing a lot of wood despite bagasse being stockpiled. With respect to materials, the workers pointed out that millions of dollars in materials are left to be destroyed by the weather. The workers also alluded to the haphazard operation of the mechanical harvesters and the misuse of bell loaders. In terms of the mechanical harvesters, workers questioned why inexperienced operators are allowed to operate these costly machines. With respect to the bell loaders, the representatives stated that, as a result of the non-functioning of the loaders, canes which are to be loaded by the bell loaders are left in the fields for some length of time thus contributing to degradation of the canes. The representatives also questioned President Jagdeo on the monies received from the European Union (EU) as compensation to the industry arising from the 36 per cent price cut. The workers noted that the monies were provided as a result of the impact of the price cut; and, therefore, morally ,the monies should be utilized to develop and modernize the industry. The President noted that the money which comes from the EU is provided to the Government as budgetary support, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be spent in the sugar industry. He noted that those countries which came out of sugar, such as Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and St Kitts, also received money from the EU; however, those monies were not spent in the sugar industry in those countries. When quizzed on the amount of money received from the EU, the President said that the Government had received over US$20M, of which US$12M was spent towards the construction of the packaging plant at Enmore. Workers also called on the President to allow the Union to name a representative to the Board of Directors to assist in curbing some of the issues which confront the industry. The workers noted that, through a representative, many of the issues which confront them could be raised at the highest forum of the Corporation, and that a Union representative could provide a new perspective and insights for the management of the Corporation. Page Two
A LITTLE CHRISTMAS CHEER...
GAWU Credit Union records great profits, pays significant dividends Persaud, Secretary of the Society. it covered the period November 23, 2009 to September, 2010, highlighting the year’s activities of the Society.
A section of the members attending the meeting The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Cooperative Credit Union Society Limited held its 17th Annual General Meeting on November 28, 2010 at the Umana Yana, Kingston, Georgetown. In attendance were approximately three
hundred (300) members, drawn mainly from entities where GAWU enjoys bargaining rights. The Report of the Committee of Management was presented by Cde Rooplall
The Report of the Auditor was also presented, as well as the Report of the Supervisory Committee. The Audit Report advised that the Society made a profit of fourteen million ,five hundred and seventy-four thousand, two hundred and twenty-three dollars ($14,574,223.00) for 2009. Five (5) resolutions were approved relating to the disbursement of the surplus - $8,257,053 - as dividend payments;
$1,622,953 as interest rebates; $98,365 to the Social and Entertainment Fund; $1,737,938 to the Audit and Supervision Fund; and $2,857,915 to the Statutory Reserve. An eleven-person Management Committee namely: Cdes Bevon Sinclair, Ramnarase Tiwari, Roopall Persaud, Charles Cadogan, Walter Raghoo, Indar Persaud Singh, Richard De Freitas, Gaietri Baron, Aslim Singh, Seepaul Narine and Derek Thakur, was elected until the next AGM, and Cdes Narda A. E. Mohamed, Kavita Bishun and Ameeta Carrol were elected as members of the Supervisory Committee. Over the past year, the membership of the Credit Union grew by over 300 members, and currently stands at over 7,000. The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Cooperative Credit Union Society Limited upholds its Annual General Meetings, and ensures strict accountability and transparency in all aspects of its work.
GAWU urges Berbice Chambers of Commerce to be balanced impacted on the current lack of economic activity in New Amsterdam, its environs, and along the Corentyne. GAWU, therefore, urges the three Berbice Chambers to transform their concerns into a strong, effective lobby, through which the Government and Guysuco will be seized with the crucial need to remedy the faults at the beleaguered Skeldon factory, for starters. GAWU also encourages these concerned representatives of the commercial secThe state-of-the-art Skeldon Sugar Factory tor to engage Guysuco in some serious soulThe Guyana Agricultural and Gener- current impasse between the Union al Workers Union (GAWU) is pleased and its members and the Guyana searching with respect to that Corpothat the three concerned Berbice Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) re- ration’s treatment of its employees. Chambers of Commerce have noted solved. After all, their members, We suggest that the anxious Berbice the vital importance of the sugar sec- represneting the scores of business Chambers assist Guysuco to fashion tor to the economic existence and places from Skeldon to New Amster- immediate policies to lift worker-mosustainability of Region Six especially. dam, are already feeling the effects rale and attendance. of the low circulation of disposable For the Chambers to make stateThese three umbrella business or- income. It has been noted that the ganisations certainly have a major lack of spending power by the thou- ments such as “the constant resort stakeholder interest in having the sands of Berbician sugar workers has to strike action by the Unions”; “the COMBAT: November/December, 2010
constant disruption and forced shutdown of the entire operations of the Corporation…”; and “frustrations by citizens of Region Six against the confrontational approach and insensitivity towards the reality of the sugar industry are mounting…” is to imply that the workers and GAWU are to blame for the current state of affairs. Neither GAWU nor its members can be blamed for the Skeldon factory’s failures and the other numerous examples of Guysuco’s mismanagement. As a responsible Union, GAWU is not in the business of apportioning blame. We simply state our case. Level-headed and fair-minded stakeholders already know where the real causes originate, and still lie. The Union shares all the concerns of the Chambers with respect to the longterm deleterious effects this dispute could have for all major players and the country as a whole. The ball of responsible decision-making, however, is not in our court. We hope that the concerned Chambers will use their high levels of influence to push the Corporation to accept its failings and implement meaningful measures to improve the productive capacity of the industry. Page Three
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Venezuela: from “backyard” to multipolar world
A successful tour of 7 countries in three continents, made by President Hugo Chavez, has produced 69 new agreements that will strengthen national development and consolidate the most powerful defence against imperial aggression: the union of nations and peoples. The United States most influential ideologue of the twentieth century, Henry Kissinger, declared during the 1970s regarding the expansion of socialism in the region, “If the US can’t control Latin America, how can it dominate the world?” Today, Kissinger’s concern has returned to torment the US and imperial forces; but this time, their conspiring fist can’t seem to silence the awakening of nations in revolution. The US’ desperation during those years to subordinate countries in their “backyard” led to a series of coups d’etats, brutal dictatorships, sabotages, political assassinations, mass tortures and disappearances; and the implementation of neoliberal capitalist models that caused the worst misery, exclusion, poverty and alienation known in the region throughout history. Under the limited US vision, strategies and tactics of aggression achieved their goal by the end of the century; and in almost all Latin American nations, with the exception of Revolutionary Cuba, subservient governments were put in place, hailing the US-imposed economic and political model of neoliberal representative democracy. When a revolutionary Venezuelan soldier, Hugo Chavez, led a rebellion against the criminal, murderous and corrupt government of Carlos Andres Perez – a close ally of Washington – on February 4, 1992, the US underestimated him. A secret document from the Department of State, now declassified, commented on the event, stating, “The coup attempt appears to have been the work of a group of mid-level army officers… There is no indication of popular support for the coup plotters…” At the same time, the US government recognized, from its own surveys conducted in secret in Venezuela, “The incentive to follow support for Carlos Andres Perez is small; a recent poll showed him enjoying less than 20% of the electorate’s support…” In other words, the people did not support the neoliberal model imposed on their nation. Another secret report from March 10, 1992 revealed Washington’s true concern regarding the popular uprisings in Venezuela, “A successful coup in Venezuela would be a serious blow to US interests in the hemisphere. Despite the short-term negative impact on the poor and the middle class, we believe Carlos Andres Perez’s (CAP) economic policies are exactly what are COMBAT: November/December, 2010
needed to reform the Venezuelan economy…CAP’s overthrow would send a chilling message to the region about the viability of implementing economic reform.” [*Although the US classified the action as a “coup”, Hugo Chavez called it a “popular rebellion against a dictatorship disguised as democracy”]. Paraphrasing Kissinger, if the US couldn’t control Venezuela, how could it control the region? The principal US concern was not whether poverty would increase and the middle class would disappear; but, rather, whether the neoliberal model would be implemented, at any cost, because this would be the only guarantee of permanent US domination in the region. When Hugo Chavez won office in Venezuela in 1998, Washington didn’t know what to do. The official policy was “wait and see” before acting. Imperial interests tried to “buy” the recently-elected Venezuelan President several times, but their temptations didn’t bear fruit: Venezuela had chosen an irreversible path towards independence, sovereignty, dignity and revolution. With the first changes – constitutional reform, a raise in oil prices and the rescue of OPEC – powerful interests were affected and US control over Venezuela decreased. The voice of Hugo Chavez began to be heard throughout the region, resonating with a rebellious song that inspired restless people’s movements. PERMANENT AGGRESSION Soon after, actions were initiated to try and neutralize what Washington had believed impossible: an antiimperialist, socialist revolution in the XXI century, just south of the border. A wave of aggressions struck Venezuela – the coup in April 2002, an oil strike and economic sabotage, assassination attempts, subversion, multi-million-dollar funding to opposition groups, elections meddling, and a brutal psychological war executed through mass media – but they didn’t achieve their objective, and revolutionary forces began to rise throughout the continent. The birth of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americans (ALBA) in 2004 opened the path towards a new foreign policy based on cooperation, integration and solidarity. Relations between sister nations in the region began to grow, strengthening the ties between states that shared a collective vision for humanity, and building a new economic model of commerce and trade that promoted mutual benefits and development. ALBA TO A MULTIPOLAR WORLD From ALBA, the Union of South American Nations (UNSAR) was born, with the objective of forging regional trade and creating a continental bloc of power capable of confronting world challenges. As the revolution in Venezuela grew, US aggression increased. In 2005, Washington launched an international campaign to “isolate the Venezuelan government” and classify it as a “rogue state”. “Hugo Chavez is a negative force in the region”, declared Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in January 2005, beginning before world opinion the bombardment of lies about Venezuela that hasn’t ceased to date. One year later, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld compared President Chavez to Hitler; and, together with the Director
of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, denominated Venezuela the “largest threat to US interests in the region”. That year, Venezuela was placed on a list of nations “not fully collaborating with the war on terror”, and a US-imposed sanction prohibited the sale of defence equipment with US technology to that South American nation. Chavez, recognizing the attempt to debilite his armed forces, sought out other partners who weren’t subjected to US domination. Russia was the first country to offer to replace Venezuela’s military supplies. For the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, a Latin American nation began to build ties with Russia without US involvement. The initial purchase of defence equipment opened the door to a new commercial and strategic relationship between Venezuela and Russia, thanks to the US embargo. After Russia, Venezuela began to build relations with China, Belarus, Iran, Japan, Syria, Libya, India, and other African, Asian and European nations. Chavez’s foreign policy initiated a radical transformation in the region and put Venezuela on the world map. “It was about radically changing the rules of the game: we wanted to relate to the world, and not just one part of it. In reality, we were just learning how to walk with our own feet on the international stage. Don’t forget that, before, we didn’t have our own foreign policy. Our foreign policy was directed by Washington”, explains President Chavez. CHANGING THE BALANCE OF POWER Chavez’s tour to Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Iran, Syria, Libya and Portugal, from October 13-24, 2010, is a sign of a new multipolar world on the horizon. Of the 69 agreements signed with these nations, Venezuela will have numerous valuable benefits, including the construction of tens of thousands of homes for Venezuelan people; agricultural development; economic growth; energy production; new industries; diverse exports; and strategic, balanced relations with other nations – all for the maximum benefit of the people of Venezuela. Not one of the 69 agreements contains exploitative elements that could cause disadvantage for Venezuela. The foreign policy of the Chavez government doesn’t permit exploitation or capitalist contamination that could harm the South American nation. For example, in Belarus, Venezuela won’t just buy heavy cargo mining trucks and public transport vehicles, but also will create joint ventures with Belarussian companies to establish factories in Venezuelan territory, assuring technological transfer which will aid in the diversification of Venezuela’s industries and the creation of jobs for the Venezuelan people. IN A MULTIPOLAR WORLD, THERE CAN BE NO EMPIRE “Venezuela must obey”, declared President Obama in reference to the agreement with Russia to develop nuclear energy for peaceful use. “We are monitoring the agreements between Venezuela and Iran to see if they violate the sanctions”, announced Philip Crowley, State Department spokesman, as though Washington was still the world police. The desperate tone eminating from the White House is the product of its weakening global power – the Empire’s time is up and a new multipolar world has been born. Kissinger’s nightmare has come true – the US can’t dominate Latin America anymore, and much less the world. The revolutionary Venezuelan soldier they once underestimated has become a symbol of resistance against US hegemony, and is inspiring millions who seek a better world. By Eva Golinger Page Four
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UN “poverty summit” exposes failure of world capitalism in 2007-2008 that plunged hundreds of millions more people into a state of chronic hunger. Thus, the balance sheet on the first Millennium goal, “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger,” is a dramatic worsening of conditions. While 830 million people lived on the brink of starvation when the goals were adopted a decade ago, this number soared to over 1 billion during the food crisis, and The United Nations Headquarters in New York remains at 915 milThe “poverty summit” that concluded at the United lion. Nations served to expose capitalism’s responsibility for According to the World Bank, 980 million people today the poverty and hunger confronting billions of people are forced to live on less than a dollar a day, only slightacross the planet. Despite vows by the UN and the ma- ly lower than the 1.25 billion figure recorded in 1990. jor powers over the past decade to ameliorate these The Millennium goal had been intended to cut this conditions, the desperation and misery of the world’s number in half by 2015. But the crisis that began on most oppressed layers have only deepened as a result Wall Street in 2008 has spread around the world, swellof imperialist predations and the shocks arising from ing the ranks of those living in absolute poverty. Accordthe global financial crisis. ing to the World Bank, 50 million more people were The meeting saw numerous heads of state parade be- plunged into these conditions in 2009, and another 64 fore the UN General Assembly in New York City to pla- million are expected to share the same fate in 2010. tonically proclaim their commitment to the so-called There has been shamefully little progress in relation to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were ad- other stated goals. One was to slash infant mortality by opted by a similar summit exactly ten years ago. two-thirds by 2015. But after a full decade, 9.2 million In the more frank statements, there were admissions children still do not live past their fifth birthday, largely that, ten years into the supposed pursuit of these goals, because of malnutrition and preventable diseases. the achievement of proposed benchmarks in relation Similarly, a pledge to cut maternal mortality by threeto extreme poverty, hunger, child and maternal health, quarters has been shattered by the reality of half a and other areas by the 2015 deadline is already out of million women dying every year from complications in the question. pregnancy and childbirth. The goals represented a commitment to eradicate The UN vowed to halt the spread of AIDS, but after a what amounted to the worst symptoms of the poverty decade, only one-third of the 33.2 million people inand oppression to which the profit system has relegat- fected with the virus are able to get treatment. Moreed much of the world’s population. Even if they had over, funding for anti-AIDS efforts is being slashed, been achieved, billions of people would still be left in threatening what gains have been made. European nahunger and misery. tions, for example, are giving $623 million less to HIV/ In adopting the MDGs, the UN approved a “Millennium AIDS programs this year than last year. Declaration” which proclaimed that “the central chalNone of the advanced capitalist countries is meetlenge we face today is to ensure that globalization be- ing minimal pledges to provide aid to the most imcomes a positive force for all the world’s people.” poverished regions of the world. While, in 2005, they The intervening decade has made a mockery of this had committed themselves to allocating a miserly 0.7 statement, which, from the start, was aimed at provid- percent of their gross national income to international ing window-dressing for world finance capital’s exploi- assistance, the average figure for the Group of seven tation of the most oppressed countries. countries stands at only 0.22 per cent, and for the UnitGlobal economic integration, while making possible an ed States, it amounts to just 0.17 per cent. immense growth in technology, production and comDespite having reneged on their promises, the leadmunications, has been totally subordinated to the prof- ers of the major capitalist countries delivered speeches its of the banks and corporations, and to the accumula- dripping with imperialist arrogance towards the world’s tion of obscene amounts of wealth by a tiny financial oppressed. aristocracy. German Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed the comFor the masses of the world’s poor, capitalist globaliza- mitments made in 2000. “The international community tion has meant a series of catastrophes and ever-grow- gave itself real goals 10 years ago,” she said. “Unfortuing social inequality. The globalization of capitalist ag- nately, today, we have to recognize that we are probriculture, bound up with wholesale privatizations and ably not able to reach these objectives.” global commodity speculation, produced a food crisis She blamed the poorest countries for the failure to COMBAT: November/December, 2010
achieve these targets, warning them that “development aid cannot continue indefinitely.” US President Barack Obama sounded similar themes, while admitting to the General Assembly that US aid efforts were subordinate to Washington’s “national security strategy.” Obama proclaimed that his administration is “changing the way we do business” in relation to international aid. “For too long, we’ve measured our efforts by the amount of money we’ve spent,” he said. Such assistance, he stressed, bred “dependence.” He insists that this is “a cycle we need to break.” Speaking as the leader of a country that is providing less than a quarter of the foreign aid that it pledged, Obama cynically urged the UN delegates to “move beyond the old, narrow debate about how much money we’re spending.” The purportedly new approach proclaimed by the US president consists of directing aid to impoverished countries that submit unreservedly to the dominance of American finance capital. He stressed that such nations would have to “create business environments that are attractive to investment” and “encourage entrepreneurs” in order to “unleash transformational change.” In other words, Obama’s prescription for global poverty is more of the same toxin that caused it in the first place: unfettered capitalist exploitation. Such policies are hardly surprising. Obama, Merkel and leaders of other major capitalist countries are imposing brutal austerity measures against working people at home. The logical extension of these policies towards the most oppressed countries of the planet is the acceptance of mass starvation as an unavoidable cost of doing business. Behind their arrogant demands that the impoverished countries “take responsibility” for their own fate and fight “corruption,” the major capitalist powers continue to loot the historically oppressed regions of the globe. Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, receives some $10 billion dollars in aid per year, while paying more than $14 billion in debt payments to the banks on Wall Street and the City of London. As for corruption, the entire planet is suffering the consequences of the criminal actions of Wall Street’s financial speculators, aided, abetted and bailed out to the tune of over $12 trillion by the Bush and Obama administrations. The UN’s Millennium Development Goals Conference has only underscored that the answer of the major capitalist powers to the worst economic crisis since the 1930s is to redouble their attacks on the jobs, living standards, and social conditions of working people, including the most impoverished and oppressed on the planet, while turning increasingly toward militarism and war. Against this wave of social reaction, the working class must counterpoise its own independent and revolutionary perspective of international socialism. The eradication of poverty is impossible within the framework of the profit system. The historic task posed in every country is the struggle to put an end to the capitalist system and reorganize the global economy in the interests of the working class and the oppressed, by freeing production from its subordination to profit and dedicating it to meeting the needs of all the world’s people. By Bill Van Auken Page Five
I N F O R M A T I O N C O R N E R
The Termination of Employment & Severance Pay Act
The Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act, which was enacted in 1997, provided some important benefits to employees. For the first time, employees obtained the following benefits: 1. a legal retirement age 2. the right to participate in industrial action 3. payment of redundancy or severance allowance Some important features of the Act are:What constitutes employment? According to the Act, there are two types of employment contracts:1. employment of service 2. employment for service Employment for service is where a person works similarly to a self-employed person or job worker and he/she is paid by the job or task completed. Employment of service is where an employee is under the control of the employer, the employer determines the manner and method of carrying out the work. Under the Act, the stated provisions relate to a contract of service, whether it is full time or part time, and paid on an hourly, daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Who is an employee? An employee, under the Act, is someone who works under a contract of service. Who is an employer? An employer is deemed to be any person, or undertaking, corporation, company, public authority or body of persons, who or which employs any person under a contract of service, or uses the services of a dependent contractor, commission agent or a contract worker; include the heirs, successors and assigns of any employer.
the length of the probationary period; if none is agreed upon, then the Act prescribes a period of three months.
cane farmers who supply canes to the industry. Taking into account the farmers and their families, approximately 9 per cent of Belize’s population is directly dependent on the industry. The collapse of the Belize Sugar Industries would have been disastrous for Belize, especially in the north of the country, where sugar cane cultivation is concentrated.
The Act states that either the employer or employee can terminate the employment contract during the probationary period without notice. However, if the probationary period expires, either party has to give notice of termination. Continuity of employment An employee may be away from work for any number of reasons and for varying periods of time; this can have an impact on the calculation of severance and redundancy allowances. However, absence from work for certain reasons as stated in the Act cannot be treated as interrupting the employment contract. The reasons are 1. periods of annual, maternity or sick leave, or any other leave in accordance with any law, contract or agreement or disability 2. the suspension of an employee 3. the termination of an employee prior to being reinstated or re-engaged 4. being laid off for a period not exceeding six weeks 5. due to being locked out 6. Absence due to industrial action shall not interrupt the continuity of employment, provided the action is in conformity with the law or Collective Labour Agreement, but such period shall not count for the purpose of calculating length of continuous employment. Disciplinary Action Most Collective Labour Agreements provide for a number of offences with corresponding penalties, often referred to as the disciplinary code. The Act, however, recognises two penalties:1. written warning 2. suspension without pay The Act also prohibits the imposition of a fine or other monetary penalty on an employee.
Probation An employee is given a job because he/ she indicates that he/she is able to fulfill the requirements of the job he/she is engaged in. A probationary period is that period of time an employer thinks he/ she needs to assess whether that employee possesses the skills he/she claims to have, and within which the employee has to prove his/her ability.
The employer can take disciplinary action other than dismissal when it is reasonable to do so, having regard to the nature of the violation, the employee’s duties, the nature of any damage incurred, and the previous conduct of the employee.
An employer and employee can agree on
Continued in the next edition
COMBAT: November/December, 2010
Belizean Government bails out sugar industry
Belize exports just over 90 per cent of its sugar production to the European Union, the United States, and the Caribbean; and sugar accounts for 60 per cent of Belize’s agricultural exports. Canes are grown in the north of the country by small farmers who have approximately 40,000 acres (16,194 hectares) under cultivation. Last year, the industry produced just over 94,000 tonnes of The Tower Hill Sugar Factory sugar at its only factory; at The government of Belize has stepped in with a BZ$10m (G$2B) loan to bailout Tower Hill, near Orange Walk Town. Belize Sugar Industries (BSI). The severe In Guyana, the Guyana Agricultural and lack of cash at BSI threatened the very General Workers Union (GAWU) has future of the sugar sector. called on the Government to bail out the Prime Minister Dean Barrow, in de- state owned Guyana Sugar Corporation fending the loan, which was being de- (Guysuco). The sugar industry provides a scribed as a short-term solution, said: livelihood to thousands of workers and “I don’t think any red-blooded Belizean their families. It is estimated to close would say government wasted BZ$10m that 75,000 persons are directly depenof taxpayers’ money.” The Prime Minis- dent on the sugar industry in the counter went on to say, “The sugar industry ties of Demerara and Berbice. There are has to be preserved, and the govern- also about 5,000 farmers who rely on ment recognizes that it … needed to do the estates’ mills to crush their canes. whatever was necessary to ensure that Many suppliers also depend on purpreservation. To have allowed this thing chases from Guysuco. Thus, everything to collapse just like that was a decision should be done to protect and defend that no compassionate government the industry, for it to remain intact. could contemplate, that no Prime Minister who has blood running through his veins, who is a Belizean, could allow to happen.”
BSI has been unable to pay its debts because it owes the ING Bank and the First Caribbean Bank US$60m, and another US$64m is owed by BSI’s subsidiary, BELCOGEN, which operates a 27.5 megawatt co-generation plant. As a result, BSI did not have money to pay farmers; and more worryingly, the company did not have money to start the next crop on 6th December, 2010. The entire industry was in peril without a bailout. In Belize, there are six thousand (6,000)
In a statement on November 23, 2010 the Union stated, “The industry imminently needs a life boat which can carry workers, management and the country to safety. To salvage the current crisis, the workers must be treated with dignity and respect. The powers that be, who cannot exonerate themselves from some of the past and present negative happenings of the industry, are in the driver’s seat.” Guysuco is seeking G$2B bailout from the Government, which it is understood will be granted. The Corporation announced to the Union that it was indebted in the sum of G$7.1B. Why did the Corporation seek merely G$2B? Page Six
Detractors should take note of the successes achieved by GAWU on behalf of the workers
Stabroek News’ article misleading
A worker manually loading canes Dear Editor,
Detractors of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), who are seeking to besmirch the Union’s name, have continued to project a false picture, especially to the young population. In the late 1980’s, GAWU clamoured for a 300 per cent increase in pay, taking into account the undermining of the workers’ purchasing power, which was subsidized by wage increases terribly lower than the rate of inflation. In the latter part of 1989, Collective Bargaining was restored between the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (Guysuco) and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) by the Government. Guysuco was not facilitating any negotiations with GAWU between 1977 and 1988, claiming wage adjustments were being addressed between the Government and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC). GAWU was able to secure a 22.36 per cent increase out of the negotiations with Guysuco during September/October, 1989. The other 20 per cent increase emanated from Carl Greenidge’s budget earlier in the year. By the time Dr Cheddi Jagan, the Honorary President of GAWU, passed away in 1997, workers’ increase in pay had exceeded 300 per cent, as can be discerned from the following: Year
Daily Min Wage
COMBAT: November/December, 2010
Daily Min Wage
It is worthy to note that, during Dr Cheddi Jagan’s tenure as President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, sugar workers’ wages increased by 122.35 per cent, while the cumulative inflation rate was 59.5 per cent. Our Union has always sought after a decent living wage for workers. We do not seek an increase just in tandem with the inflation rate. The wages of ordinary workers are indeed low, and they need to have their wages adjusted upward, so that they and their families would not have to live close to the poverty line. Those who wish to recall the percentage increases for which GAWU has struggled over the years, need to take note also of the successes achieved by the Union on behalf of the workers. As conditions change, GAWU makes further representation in keeping with the new realities, in order to prevent deterioration in the living standards of workers. This is our duty to our members. Yours faithfully, Seepaul Narine General Secretary GUYANA AGRICULTURAL AND GENERAL WORKERS UNION (GAWU)
Stabroek News, on the front page of its December 07, 2010 edition, misleadingly and erroneously carried the
title, “Sugar Workers accept two weeks’ pay offer” on December 07, 2010. It is regrettable that Stabroek News seemingly did not know that sugar workers, like all employees in Guyana, are entitled legally to two (2) weeks’ holiday-with-pay each year. The Union through a Press Release, responded to the Stabroek News article. Sugar workers received one of the two weeks’ HWP at the end of the first crop this year, and the other week would be paid not later than December 31, 2010 to all sugar workers. The two weeks’ Holiday-with-Pay, therefore, is not a pay-off for this year’s API and wage increase. The Union and the workers would continue to address these two grievances in the new year, once they remain unsettled.
Ex-sugar worker peeved at Guysuco’s non-award of a pay increase appointment over the non-award of a reasonable pay increase to sugar workers this year. He sought to have his comments published in the Union’s newspaper, Combat. He said, “I remember before 1992, workers carrying out a number of battles. I remember Cde Cheddi and Cde Ramkarran telling us that we need to picket and strike for us to get what we deserve. I can remember picketing Guysuco’s Head Office when it was at Guyana Stores, the Ministry of Labour, Parliament and other places. Today, when the workers strike and protest Guysuco says they are destroying the industry, and they should not strike.” Cde Ramkissoon
Cde Ramkissoon, from East Coast Demerara, a pensioner and former sugar worker for thirty-eight (38) years (1967 to 2005), visited the Union’s Head Office on December 10, 2010 and expressed disgust and dis-
“Workers and we, pensioners, need money to take care of ourselves. The cost of living is high, and is getting more and more high.” “The Government must assist Guysuco, if they want the workers to stay in the industry.” Page Seven
GAWU seeks earnest discussions with Guysuco
- industry needs a lifeboat
The Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (Guysuco), in its statement of November 19, 2010, described the oneweek strike/protest by its workforce as “callous and blatant disregard for the current state of the sugar industry.” Instead, the words “callous and blatant” aptly describe the Corporation’s treatment of the nation’s sugar workers. The workers’ purchasing power, over the last few years, has endured a heavy beating. In 2005, workers received a pay rise of 5 per cent as against an inflation rate of 8.3 per cent; in 2006, the pay rise was 5.5 per cent and the inflation rate was 4.2 per cent; in 2007, the pay rise was 8.5 per cent and the inflation rate was 14 per cent; in 2008, the pay rise was 6 per cent and the inflation rate was 6.4 per cent; and in 2009, the pay rise was 3 per cent and the inflation rate was 4.3 per cent. Over the period, the compounded inflation rate was 42.77 per cent, using 2005 as the base year, while workers received a compounded wage increase of 31.26 per cent over the same period. In other words, workers’ real wages fell by some 11.51 per cent. This year, the workers have not been offered even a black cent as pay increase, at this the eleventh month of the year. The Corporation, through its statement on November 09, 2010, informed the public first, and not the Union at the bargaining table, of its proposal of a 5 per cent pay rise only on the attainment of a production of 270,000 tonnes sugar; a 3 per cent pay rise on the attainment of between 260,000 and 269,000 tonnes sugar; and a 2 per cent oneoff payment should 250,000 tonnes sugar be produced. The Corporation advised the Union, on November 18, 2010, that the production of 250,000 tonnes sugar was achievable by December 31, 2010, and through the continuation of the crop in January, 2011, the higher thresholds would be realised. To extend the current second crop into January/February, 2011 in the midst of rainy conditions is not feasible. Further, the non-award of a pay rise to workers by December 31, 2010 would not elicit their co-operaCOMBAT: November/December, 2010
tion to harvest the remaining canes before the official commencement of the 2011 first crop. This is also a terrible blow to the nation’s sugar workers in a season of goodwill.
over 400,000 tonnes by 2012. Workers will continue to emigrate from the industry in the light of the noncompetitive rates which are maintained by the Corporation.
A production close to 250,000 tonnes is impossible at year end. This was pellucid to the Corporation on November 09, 2010, given the average weekly production for the crop. At the time of that statement, just eight (8) weeks had remained in the year, most of which would be rainy weeks, and thus not conducive to cane harvesting. As at November 19, 2010, the industry’s production was 201,775 tonnes. The Corporation’s offer was, therefore, fictional. Guysuco was seeking to demonstrate to the public that it has placed a rational offer to the sugar workers and their Union. From another dimension, it was a shameless proposal. Juxtaposing wage increases with production has never been a practice in the sugar industry. Such a new proposal ought to have been on the table in January of this year for consideration and discussions. Any change of the rules of the game cannot be in order after the game has commenced and almost at an end. Another sinister aspect of the proposal is that workers have to attain 270,000 tonnes sugar, i.e. six thousand tonnes higher than the Corporation’s revised target, to obtain a 5 per cent wage increase.
The Corporation can have a sustainable future, especially as it has begun to utilise mechanical and semimechanical harvesting to alleviate the tasks of the laborious work, to enhance greater productivity, and to address attrition.
sis, the workers must be treated with dignity and respect. The powers that be who cannot exonerate themselves from some of the past and present negative happenings of the industry, are in the driver’s seat.
The Union and the workers certainly understand the need to ensure a flow of production this year, as much as the weather would permit, and in the first crop of next year, and beyond. The Union seeks the support and co-operation of Guysuco to engage The industry imminently needs a within the next few days in earnest life boat which can carry workers, discussions, noting that if the current management and the country to dispute is not settled, it will protract safety. To salvage the current cri- into the New Year.
Cane Farmer sues GAWU for G$25M
A large cane farmer, Roy Hanoman from Corentyne, Berbice, has sued the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) for G$25M (US$125,000) in damages for losses he allegedly suffered because of the one week strike by sugar workers between November 19 and 25, 2010. Hanoman, through his lawyer Denis Hanomansingh wrote GAWU’s General Secretary, Cde Seepaul Narine, saying that his contractual arrangement with the sugar corporation was jeopardized by the strike. The Union has promptly responded The Corporation lamented the Union’s focus on the Skeldon factory. The Union is in company with the President of the Republic on this. Just recently, he stated that the factory Continued from front page was not delivering as expected, and he indicated that it has to be fixed, Guyana did not escape the 2008/2009 even if he has to get involved per- international financial/economic meltsonally. The President noted that the down. Even the European Union cut sugar industry is dead if Skeldon can- out sugar preferential, then saw its own not work the way it was designed to. members now crying for international Thus, the Union’s focus on Skeldon is bailouts – Ireland, Greece, Spain as we go to press. Combat and GAWU can be proper and most relevant.
to Mr Denis Hanomansingh stating:“The membership of our Union has a legitimate right to withdraw their labour especially to resist oppression and seek fair rewards for their labour. Every Guyanese ought to support such a stance. Nothing in the recent strike was due to, aimed at or otherwise declared, connected with your client and his arrangement with Guysuco (whatever that may be). Any proceedings taken by him in this regard will be defended by the Union”.
FRONT PAGE COMMENT:
objective enough to congratulate our government for maintaining and implementing policies which insulated us against must harsher measures and consequences.
Indeed, Guysuco needs to service its markets and creditors and to invest in its fields and factories to improve production, but failure to invest incrementally in the workers cannot guarantee the future of the industry, Our job losses and reduced earnings which has targeted a production of were not so much a result of the international crises as it was due to some em-
Christmas envelopes most of us in some aspect of its festive celebrations Christians hold fast to the belief that the Christ Child was the world’s first best gift. What we know is that the Season’s Gift of Hope and its promise of peace and goodwill are universal themes which all mankind must forever embrace. Combat wishes all a peaceful season of personal success, success which will carry over to 2011 and throughout that year. Plan for a fulfilling future in which you must, you will overcome challenges. Page Eight
By Dr Cheddi Jagan
frictions, the global environmental question, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the “included” and the “excluded” in both the developed countries and the developing countries, as well as between them. The “trickle down” economy does not work, even in the most politically and militarily powerful and the economically richest country, the United States of America. The prevailing economic and social disparity provides a breeding ground for hunger, disease and poverty, and ultimately constitutes a threat to international peace and security. Reconstruction The expectation at the end of the Cold War ideological/political confrontation was an era of peace and tranquillity. Indeed, after the Gulf War, a New World Order was proclaimed by President George Bush. But, regrettably, instead of order, there is now grave disorder worldwide, because of the paradox of the continued development of the forces of production, on the one hand, and the increasing deterioration of the quality of life, on the other – growing poverty and increasing inequality. The Iron Curtain has been replaced by the Poverty Curtain. East/West confrontation, based on ideology, has given way to conflicts rooted in racial/ethnic, religious and cultural/ historical differences both between, within, and especially among states. Coupled with population growth and mass migration, poverty and insecurity are posing the dangers of an equally terrifying political explosion, as seen in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, and elsewhere. The top leaders of the developed capitalist countries cannot present any prescriptions for curing the problems of the world economy. Symptoms, not the root causes, are treated. And the treatment is a palliative, a band-aid, like an aspirin to relieve the pain but not to cure it. Modernization of monopoly capitalism is unable to deal with recession, unemployment, financial deficit, trade COMBAT: November/December, 2010
The roots of conflict are embedded in a history of complicated political, economic, social and cultural factors. As was noted in his Prison Notebooks by the famous Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, at the time of the rise of fascism under Adolph Hitler’s demagogic “national socialism” (Nazism): “The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum, there arises a great diversity of morbid symptoms.” Economic tinkering with interest rates and structural adjustment are not enough. We need a correct theoretical perception of events, not only of the development of productive forces, but also of the relations of production and their contradictions. Piece meal management is not enough. Nor can everything be left to be regulated only by the market. Both the market and the state have irreplaceable complementary roles. We need our own agenda – a new agenda of sustainable development. Past “models” of development have proven to be wanting. With a multi-polar global economic situation but only a single super power with capitalist ideological and cultural dominance, it is not feasible immediately to embark on a revolutionary programme. The world balance of forces and the objective global reality today do not favour a socialist programme. A feasible programme therefore must be based on radical reforms – reforms,not as an end in themselves, but
as a means towards a revolutionary goal of socialism. Such a programme in this era of globalization and modernization must be based on interdependence and genuine North/South partnership and cooperation. For reconstruction and meaningful change, it is an imperative for developing countries to establish a state of national democracy. It is neither a capitalist state propagating capitalism, nor a workers’ state practising socialism. It must embark on an integrated programme of development based on: • Good Governance equity – a clean and lean government – with equality; • Democracy in all its aspects – political, economic, industrial, social, cultural – and the empowerment of the people at all levels; • The fullest exercise of human rights – civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural, in keeping with the UN Covenants on Human Rights; • A mixed economy; • Economic growth with social justice and ecological justice; • Balanced agricultural/industrial and rural/urban development; • Integrated programme of human resource development; • Multi-culturalism- unity in diversity. By national democracy it is meant a state which: • Constantly upholds its political, economic, and cultural independence; • Fights against militarism and military bases on its soil; • Resists new forms of colonialism and foreign domination, as in the colonial period when British Guiana was “Booker’s Guiana”; • Rejects dictatorial anti-popular forms of government; • Ensures the people’s broad democratic rights, and enables their participation in shaping Government policy; • Embarks on radical socio-economic changes, including the promotion of cooperation in the countryside and the development of the public sector, together with the provision of social services such as education and health. The tasks of a national democratic char-
acter comprise: • To consolidate national independence; • To carry out agrarian reforms and eliminate survivals of feudalism and exploitation; • To restrict the development of foreign monopolies (two PPP governments had been destabilized with the help and in the interest of foreign monopolies); • To secure substantial improvement in living standards for all the people; • To democratize social life; • To pursue an independent and peaceful foreign policy; • To promote a national industry and enterprises belonging to its citizens. Democracy An enduring foundation for economic growth and human development is democracy: democracy in all aspects – representative, consultative and participatory. It is not simply about voting and electing representatives, and the minority obeying the dictates of the majority. Representative democracy must be linked with consultation, participation and accountability. The many varied parts and levels of society must be in an ongoing dynamic and working relationship with each other. Democracy and development are interrelated and are a key for the attainment of our goals of social and ecological justice. Democracy is essential for economic growth and human development. Equally, human development is necessary for the sustenance of democracy. Party paramountcy, as under the PNC administration, must be abolished, and the supremacy of Parliament must be restored. A democratic culture must be firmly established. As it was so eloquently pointed out by Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide, it is the second election which is the more important in the restoration of democracy. Democracy entails the right of persons and communities to political self-determination. It is the best form for the political development of society, and is ultimately about expanding human freedom and potential, as enunciated in the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Continued in next edition Page Nine
GAWU hosts delegation from ACFTU
GAWU’s Executive Committee meeting with the delegation from the ACFTU The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) hosted a five(5) person delegation from the All China Trade Union Federation (ACFTU) from November 27 to 30, 2010. Wang Ruisheng, Vice-Chair and National Secretary; Chang Yimin, Director of Economic and Technological Department; Zhu Bin, Deputy-Director of International Department; Chen Mingjian, Staff Member of General Office; and Geng Jiamin, Staff Member of International Department ,comprised the team. The delegation also visited Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. During their four-(4)-day visit to Guyana, the Chinese trade unionists met with members of the leadership of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG). They also called on Prime Minister Sam Hinds, Agriculture, Minister Robert Persaud and Labour Minister, Manzoor Nadir. GAWU took the opportunity to provide the guests with an update on the trade union movement in Guyana, including some particulars about the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC). A brief background of GAWU itself was also provided. Some of the challenges GAWU faces were identified; and its educational thrust, taking into use the newly-constructed GAWU Labour College, was explained. Cde Wang Ruisheng, leader of the Chinese delegation, on behalf of his team, explained the current political and economic situation in China, and the priorities of the Chinese trade unions. He noted that last year, 2009, marked 60 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, during which there have been significant improvements in the economy. He noted that, 32 years ago, China adopted a policy of “Opening Up”, which resulted in massive all-round COMBAT: November/December, 2010
improvement, and development in the economy and the welfare of the Chinese people. Arising from the improvements in the economy, China has recently become one of the top three economies in the world, he explained. Cde Wang remarked that China has solved the problem of feeding its 1.3 billion people, and they are now generally living a relatively better life. He stated that, during the reform and development process of China, the Chinese workers and the Chinese trade unions had played, and are playing, an important and significant role; and the unions’ role, he said, were becoming greater as China marched on steadily to greater economic progress. Despite the improvement in the economy and the welfare of citizens, Cde Wang said, there are still a lot of problems in China. He said wages’ increases have not been rising as fast as the rate of economic growth. Cde Wang stated that the Trade Union Movement have recognized this issue, and efforts are being made to have increases in wages linked with the rate of economic growth, as indicated in the 12th Five-Year-Plan, which will be implemented from 2011. Cde Wang noted, that since the Global Financial Crisis gripped the world in 2008, the Chinese trade unions have played a prominent role to ensure that the effects of measures taken in wake of the crisis have minimal impact on the Chinese labour force. He went on to say that, although the growth of the economy in 2009 was less than in 2008, the economy still grew by 8.7 per cent, while urban employees increased by 9.1 million in 2009. Cde Wang stated that, in light of the global economic crisis, the Government had taken measures, such as urging state-owned companies to refrain from policies leading to redundancy and urging companies which have ceased production or are closing down to pay terminal benefits on time to their employees. He explained that there is increasing
training to migrant workers, and Chinese redundant workers, so that they can be re-employed. Recently, in China, the trade unions and the employers have launched a Joint Commitment Action. Through the action, employers, particularly of stateowned companies, are urged to fulfill their social responsibilities, avoid job cuts and wage reductions, and continue to pay workers on time. The priorities of the trade unions include:1. Ensuring growth and promoting development through effective campaigns aimed at ensuring stable and rapid growth of the economy. 2. Ensure employment and wages, and protection of the lawful rights and interests of the employees. 3. Carrying out capacity-building programmes for the workers, and improving the capabilities of the workforce. 4. To assist workers by providing assistance and service to those who have been negatively affected by the
downturn in the economy. GAWU and the ACFTU have shared a fraternal relationship for some years now. A few years ago, the ACFTU hosted a delegation from GAWU in Beijing. Certainly, the delegation’s visit achieved further strengthening of relations between the Trade Union Movement in Guyana and the All China Trade Union Federation. GAWU, among other unions in the Caribbean, has been invited to attend a Seminar in China next March. Undoubtedly, the Caribbean trade unionists would become more knowledgeable of the role the Chinese workers are playing in the further development of the Chinese economy, and their reward from the state, and their growing income. The All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which was founded on May 01, 1925, is the sole national Trade Union Federation of the People’s Republic of China. It is the largest trade union in the world, with 230 million members in 1,713,000 primary trade union organizations.
No wage increase, no API
Since the September/October, 2010 edition of Combat, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) have held meetings on November 03, 2010, November 15, 2010, November 18, 2010 and December 06, 2010. The Union persevered at the bargaining table to obtain an acceptable wage/ salary increase, but the Corporation stated that it would not be able to offer an increase in pay. At the meeting held on December 06, 2010, the Corporation reaffirmed to the Union and its 52-person delegation that, on account of the Corporation’s low sugar production, no wage increase is possible. On the customary Annual Production Incentive (API), which has been paid every year for more than half a century, the Corporation was adamant that there would be no award. API was previously known, before the late 70’s, as Annual Production Bonus. It is deferred payments to workers, who receive an award in days’ pay agreed to between GAWU and the Corporation, taking into account the sugar production for the year. In 1990, when the Corporation recorded its lowest production since 1944, an award of 5 days’ pay was paid on the attainment of a sugar production of 129,920 tonnes. The Union, noting the Corporation’s present indebtedness, said to be G$7.1B; its inability to harvest all of the crop’s canes, owing mainly to the rainy weather, inadequate attendance to work by cane cutters, as said by the Corporation and the poor performance of the newly-built Skeldon factory, has been looking forward to financial support from the Government to provide timely financial
wherewithal to workers during this season for their productive contribution to the important sugar industry. Poor remuneration and hijacking of workers traditional API entitlement could witness critical loss of the most dependable members of the workforce. From within the late 80’s on to 1991, when sugar production plummeted to 167,550 tonnes in 1988; 160,800 in 1989; 129,920 in 1990; and 159,600 in 1991, it was basically a dwindling labour pool that was pivotal to the sad situation. Given the role of sugar in the economy and the fabric of society, the Government’s support at this time would be more than justifiable. Sugar’s future in Guyana cannot be minimised once Guysuco produces qualitative canes in adequate quantities. The world price of sugar and the Corporation’s contractual markets in the European Union, the United States of America and others assure the Corporation’s future, noting that the Enmore Packaging Plant would be commissioned soon and according to Guysuco all the major defects of the Skeldon Factory would be remedied by January next year, except for the No. 1 boiler, which would be operable by mid-next year. Sugar production as at December 13, 2010 stands at 214,045 tonnes for the year, far from the Corporation’s finally set target of 264,000 tonnes. The workers need to be awarded their Annual Production Incentive and an acceptable increase in pay retroactive to January 01, 2010, to ensure their full support to reap early next year the “carried over” canes that would take about seven (7) weeks to reap; and, of course, next year’s canes. Page Ten
Negotiations Round Up 4.5% wage hike for DTL workers A wage hike for the workers of Demerara Timbers Limited (DTL), retroactive to January 01, 2010, is pegged at 4.5 per cent following active negotiations between the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the Company, which concluded on December 01, 2010. There would also be adjustments in station allowances, meals allowances and night premiums for the 80 person workforce. The Company, for the first time, would sponsor a Christmas party for the employees. Members of the Union’s branch have agreed to organize the party not later than De-
5-year agreement reached at DDL
cember 16, 2010.
Prompt industrial action on December 02 and 03, 2010, by members of The Union’s delegation, which had the workforce of the Demerara Discomprised shop stewards Angela tillers Limited (DDL), the first time in Henry, Anita Croft and Shondel Lam- many years, hastened the Company bert, the Union’s Field Secretary and to change its rejected wage/salary the General Secretary, approved the proposal. The recognized unions on wage rise. There were consultations behalf of the workers at DDL – the from time to time with the workers. It Guyana Agricultural and General was noted that the harvest of timber Workers Union (GAWU), the Guyana was hamstrung by bad weather and, Labour Union (GLU) and the Cleritherefore, the Company’s generation cal and Commercial Workers Union of revenue was inhibited. On Decem- (CCWU) – did not approve the Comber 18, 2010, the workers would re- pany’s original proposal, which stipuceive their retroactive payments and lated that the scales would be fixed the new rates of pay. for five (5) years, and 128 workers (20 per cent of the workforce) would be red circled, thus an impasse between the parties was reached on December 02, 2010
be additional increases for each of the previously mentioned years if the inflation rate exceeds 4 per cent in any of the years. Employees who are deemed low-performers based on their assessments would receive 5 per cent. The middle performers would receive 6 per cent, and the high performers, 7 per cent. The almost 25 piece-rated employees would also receive a pay increase. The following fringe benefits:- meal allowances, sewing assistance, cycle allowance, third shift premium, and leave passage assistance have also been improved.
G$9.2M Bonus for BEV workers
The Unions and the Management of the Company are to formally append the Agreement. In the meanThe Agreement reached between time, arrangements are being made the parties, following the two-(2)-day for the almost 550-person workforce strike, provides for increases pegged to receive this year’s retroactive payThe employees of BEV Processors The almost five hundred employees at 5, 6 and 7 per cent for 2010, 2011, ments on December 15, 2010. Inc would receive a year-end bonus will receive a total bonus of seven 2012, 2013 and 2014. There would following negotiations between the million, two hundred thousand dolCompany and the Union, on Decem- lars (G$7.2M), along with another two million dollars (G$2M) worth in ber 07, 2010. hampers. The Company’s Managing Director and the Union agreed that the Christ- The employees are pleased with the mas season necessitated some bonus representation of the Union’s branch payments to all employees. and the Union’s General Secretary at Negotiations between the Guyana Ag- that this private Company’s ability to pay the negotiations.
Union seeks one year agreement at BBCI
SILWFC workers to get a 7% wage increase The Management Committee of the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund Committee (SILWFC), despite the Union submitting its claims to the body since April 28, 2010, is yet to meet the Union to settle pay increases for its employees for this year (2010). The Union was recently COMBAT: November/December, 2010
advised that the Union’s claims were attracting the attention of the Main Committee, which met on December 14, 2010. The 18-person workforce will be benefitting with a pay rise retroactive to January 01, 2010 of 7 per cent. The Union sanctioned the across-the-board increase.
ricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the Berbice Bridge Company Inc (BBCI) for a Collective Labour Agreement are to be finalized with two matters outstanding. The Company wants to award a 5 per cent wage increase per year for 2010 and 2011, and to maintain a forty-four (44)-hour work week, while the Union is seeking to have a forty (40) hour work week, which is generally a practice within the private sector and Government. The Bridge itself had adopted a 40 hour week when it commenced operations in December, 2008. The Union, taking into account, the workers’ concern, is pressing for a one year wage/salary agreement. Employees of the Bridge are pressing for an increase greater than 5 per cent next year noting,
is assured. The Union and the Company have approved the following clauses: Equal Opportunities, Hiring and Employment, Individual Contracts, Probation Period, Overtime, Payment for Sundays and Public Holidays, Promotion, Meal Allowances, Acting Allowances, Standby Allowance, Annual Leave, Leave Passage Assistance, Sick Leave, Industrial Leave, Maternity Leave, Special Leave, Medical Discharge, Company Facilities, Time off for Union Meetings/Consultations, Education and Training, Occupational Safety and Health, Uniforms, Jury Service and/ or State Witness, Bursaries and Pension/ Medical Scheme. The Union and the Company would meet again on December 15, 2010 with a view to finalising the two matters.
2010 in pictures GAWU members participating in Mashramani celebrations, on 23rd February, 2010
Commemorating Kowsillaâ€™s 46th death anniversary, on 6th March, 2010
Prime Minister Sam Hinds & Dr Ana Teresa Romero, Director, ILO Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean, cutting the ribbon to officially open the GAWU Labour College, on March 24, 2010
Workers at Diamond Estate picketing Guysucoâ€™s Office at Diamond, calling for their severance pay, on March 30, 2010
GAWU recognised at bargaining agent on behalf of workers at Berbice Bridge Company Inc, on April 13, 2010
GAWU members in the annual Labour Day March around Georgetown, on May 01, 2010
Commemorating the 62nd death anniversary of the Enmore Martyrs, on June 16, 2010
Workers picketing Guysuco to press their wage demand, on October 18, 2010
The first batch of participants to complete the GAWU/ NAACIE/GMB Training Programme on October 22, 2010
COMBAT is a publication of the Guyana Agricultural & General Workers Union (GAWU) 59 High Street & Wights Lane, Kingston, Georgetown, Guyana, S.A. Tel: 592-227-2091/2; 225-5321 , 223-6523 Fax: 592-227-2093 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.gawu.net