The new wage agreement for workers within the sugar industry was on Feb. 23 signed between the Sugar Producers’ Federation and trade union groups representing employees.
The agreement will see the workers benefiting from a nine-point claim, which will also cover improved working conditions. It was signed after months of negotiations and intervention by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security last week.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, in his remarks at the signing ceremony held at the Ministry’s Heroes Circle offices in Kingston, said the agreement represents the power of negotiation and peaceful resolution to conflict, and signifies a certain level of cooperation, which should be the approach going forward in all negotiations.
“More importantly, however, this signing event demonstrates hope for the kind of unity, which can exist between capital on one hand and labour on the other, to the mutual benefit of each and the economic development of the country,” he stated.
The two-year agreement comes into effect on January 1, 2012 or the commencement of the 2011/2012 crop, whichever is earlier. It provides for a wage increase of 10.37 per cent on all daily and task rates in the first year, and six per cent in the second year.
Workers will also receive four per cent bonus on gross crop earnings in year one and two per cent in year two, as per the agreement. The new rates will be applied no later than March 31, 2012 and retroactive payments made no later than April 2012.
Other areas of settlement include allowances (clothing, meal, and overtime), group life and personal accident insurance.
The parties have also agreed to continue discussions on other matters, including the hospitalisation scheme, bicycle allowance, and engagement of HEART/NTA in the assessment of tradesmen.
The unions that represent the sugar workers are the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), National Workers’ Union (NWU) and the University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU).
The industry is the largest employer of labour in the island and is vertically integrated with numerous other sectors.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter