A living wage is key to increasing productivity in the sugar industry

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to “GAWU says pay increase is the only way to overthrow sugar” (September 4). I agree. Sugar workers aren’t the only ones looking for a living wage. Even state enterprises and civil servants want a decent income. A living wage is essential to the development of industry and any business. You cannot pay a starvation wage and expect sugar or any other state enterprise to turn around. GuySuCo struggles to retain workers with a participation rate of just 50%. The workers earn more every day doing bric-a-brac and do not have to devote as many hours as in the fields or in the factories. They are the lowest paid of all industries, a starvation age that averages $70,000 a month, roughly the same amount the lowest paid civil servants earn.

Sugar workers work hard in the hot sun or in the rain using dangerous tools at high risk of injury. When the factory is not working, the workers receive a small allowance which does not allow them to buy food for the week. Other state workers are guaranteed a minimum income that qualifies them for the NIS; not all sugar workers receive this benefit. It should be noted that while the cost of living has steadily risen and other workers have won raises, sugar workers have been denied raises, so their real wages have risen considerably. declined even as inflation rocketed out of control. How to justify a salary increase when GuySuCo loses billions?

Sometimes owners or managers need to increase wages or labor costs to increase productivity and revenue. In the short term, this increases production costs which can be mitigated by reducing management costs. In the long term, productivity will gradually increase, reducing the gap between operating costs and revenues. Management can also be restructured and estates operate autonomously as separate entities, each managing its own operations to reduce costs. Another option is to offer sugar workers land (say ten acres) to grow cane which is then sold to factories similar to the private cultivation of cane. The private cultivation of cane was very profitable when the factories were in operation. GuySuCo should consider giving incentives to workers. Honors should be given to the top fifty workers in terms of tonnage cut, acres of field planted, etc. The company should celebrate the achievements of talented workers with dinners or certificates.

On a related note, a rebuttal to my comment on your editorial on GuySuCo on September 3, one of the reasons for the dire state of the company is the failure to dismantle factories from gated estates.

This led to the destruction of the factories, which made it difficult to bring them back into operation. Wales has been cannibalized, factories and offices have been invaded by thick bushes; grass grew out of buildings and factories. It was a total mess to clean up, which cost billions. While some $21 billion has been allocated to GuySuCo over the past two years, more than half, $11 billion, has been spent on estate rehabilitation and billions more on equipment.


Vishnu Bisram

Rachel J. Bradford