GUYSUCO denies NAACIE claim it is blocking arbitration on 2001 wages
Stabroek News
May 24, 2002

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The National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) has charged that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) is using every conceivable avenue to thwart arbitration to settle wages and merit increments for 2001, a claim the corporation has denied.

In a press release issued by NAACIE, the union said it has been six months since it made a request for arbitration.

NAACIE said it was encouraged at the early stages of the discussions by the assurance given by GUYSUCO that it would adhere to the existing procedural agreement between the parties.

According to the release, the union and GUYSUCO had initially agreed to the terms of reference for the arbitration tribunal, under the chairmanship of Chief Labour Officer Mohamed Akeel, but there was disagreement over the composition of the tribunal.

"In an effort not to further delay the process, which seemed to be the strategy of GUYSUCO, NAACIE reluctantly agreed to the composition of the tribunal-a three-man panel with two names submitted by GUYSUCO. The union was led to believe that this would have paved the way for the tribunal to commence its work," the release stated.

The union charged that GUYSUCO reneged on the terms of reference, requesting that some extraneous matters be included and then called for the submission of a new list of arbitrators.

Industrial Relations Director of GUYSUCO, Jairam Petam, told Stabroek News on Monday that the corporation and the union had an initial agreement but pointed out that it was only a preliminary one reached under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour to facilitate the tribunal.

He said there was a wage related issue pending since 1999 which GUYSUCO wanted to be incorporated in the terms of reference which NAACIE has objected to. This pertained to promotional criteria and honoraria for acting appointments.

He said the issue of the composition of the tribunal was being conciliated by the Ministry of Labour. Petam expressed optimism that the process would move forward through the efforts of the ministry.

NAACIE added: "The union considered the attitude being displayed by the corporation on this matter as being very unprofessional and is indicative of their unwillingness to have the dispute addressed at the level of arbitration. The union in the circumstances has been exercising a considerable degree of restraint over the past months in its efforts to exhaust the grievance procedure. Its membership, however, is being provoked into a position of restlessness given the uncompromising posture adopted by GUYSUCO."

The union said it was committed to following laid down procedures but expected the employer to do the same. The union expressed appreciation for the efforts being made by deputy Chief Labour Officer, Dhanraj Sookdeo, to facilitate the arbitration process.