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BITU wants ministry to settle sugar dispute

The Jamaica Observer, 2 September 2000

THE Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), has sought the intervention of the Ministry of Labour in settling a dispute between the Sugar Producers Federation (SPF) and the unions representing sugar workers.

According to the BITU's vice president, Pearnel Charles, "uneasiness" abounds in the industry over government's "unilateral decision" not to continue honouring the five-day 40-hour work week for some workers in the industry.

In addition to the BITU, sugar workers are represented by the University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU), and the National Workers Union (NWU).

But Charles said yesterday that although his union had already met with SPF officials the other unions have not yet sat down at similar meetings with the industry leaders. Said he: "The BITU notes with regret the inability of the Sugar Producers Federation to convene a meeting with the unions to deal with the uneasiness in the sugar industry..." Charles said in a statement issued yesterday.

Against this background, he has called on the labour ministry to assist. "In the national interest we are forced to bring this matter to the Ministry of Labour and further to request their assistance in having this dispute resolved," he continued.

Adding: "We must advise that the BITU believes that negotiation, rather than confrontation will pave the way for a smooth opening of the 2000 to 2001 sugar crop, thus our request for a meeting with the management and unions."

This ongoing dispute over the work week caused serious disruption in the industry two fortnights ago and sugar workers only agreed to return to work with the understanding that meetings would be held between management and their unions.