The state-owned enterprise which manages the local sugar sector is optimistic of reaching a settlement when its retrenchment talks resume tomorrow with the workers’ bargaining body.
General Manager of the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) Leslie Parris said today, that after meeting yesterday with the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), there were no longer any significant differences between the two parties that should prevent an agreement from being reached.
Parris told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that tomorrow’s discussions were aimed at finalizing the number of workers who would be sent home from the BAMC as a result of Government’s cost-cutting and restructuring programme.
“The meeting seeks to finalize the numbers as it relates to the company in general, to ensure that we have the manpower levels necessary to get the crop going, while at the same time, reducing our overall costs with respect to wages and expenses,” the BAMC boss said.
When asked to comment specifically about yesterday’s meeting with the BWU, Parris replied: “We are moving closer to a resolution.”
Parris also revealed that the outcome of a separate and distinct meeting – at a date to be determined – between the BWU and the wider cane industry as a whole would have an impact on the start of this year’s sugar crop which is projected to produce similar yields as last year’s or a slightly more.
“The start [of the crop] would depend on a satisfactory conclusion of the meeting between the union and the cane industry . . . that is, the BAMC and the independent cane farmers,” he pointed out.
“”Those discussions would no doubt centre around things like the pay and conditions of work and so on, for workers in the industry. So that meeting will be with the independent producers as well as with the BAMC with respect to the totals and the 2019 crop,” he added.
Parris disclosed that this year’s harvest was expected to produce 146,000 tons of cane, which converts into a little more than 11,000 tons of sugar.
“We are looking at approximately 1.3 per cent above last year, which would bring us around 146,000 tons of cane or slightly more. If we use the last conversion rate, which we had last year, we should get a little over 11,000 tons of sugar. Last year’s production was 146,000 tons or 11 and a half thousand tons of sugar,” the BAMC general manager told Barbados TODAY.
He said that as far as preparation for the 2019 sugar crop was concerned, the industry was about 84 per cent ready based on what was done at the lone factory at Portvale, St James between the end of the 2018 harvest and when the workers went on holiday last month.
However, the BAMC spokesman revealed that the factory should be ready by February 21 when steam trials will take place.