Labour Minister refers dispute to arbitration
Guyana Chronicle
November 16, 2002

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Following last Thursday’s appointment of a 3- member tribunal to arbitrate in the wages and salaries dispute between the Guyana Sugar Corp., (GUYSUCO) and the National Association of Agricultural Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE), as well as the dispute between the sugar corporation and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) by the Minister of Labour, the Hon. Dr. Dale Bisnauth, representatives of NAACIE yesterday met at the Ministry of Labour, for preliminary discussions.

NAACIE is the recognized representative of sugar boilers and clerical employees in the majority state-owned sugar corporation, while workers, foremen and forewomen employed in the field and factory are represented by GAWU.

According to a Press Release issued by the CLO, Minister Bisnauth invoked his statutory powers under the Labour Act to refer the dispute between GUYSUCO and GAWU to the tribunal based on the likelihood that the dispute would be prolonged if no positive action was taken.

NAACIE’s initial proposal was for a pay increase of 38 per cent. Pay negotiations between GUYSUCO and GAWU commenced in March with the union proposing a pay increase of 18 per cent. Following extensive negotiations, GUYSUCO increased its pay offer to 4.1 per cent with a merit increase of 0.4 per cent. Notwithstanding those negotiations, the sugar corporation and the unions were unable to reach agreement, and their respective claims were referred to an arbitration tribunal comprising Mr. Prem Persaud, former Court of Appeal Judge and current chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, as chairman, with Mr. Norman McLean and Mr. David Yankana as members.

Up to closing time yesterday executives of GAWU had received no official notification of the tribunal’s appointment. A canvass of experts in the sugar industry indicates that the cost to GUYSUCO for each percentage point claimed is $150million, and, based on the corporation’s present financial state, a pay increase above the level of inflation would be disastrous, placing survival of the industry in jeopardy.

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