Workers striking for higher pay shut Guyana's sugar industry for a second full day on Wednesday (27th August), seriously threatening sugar exports to the European Union according to the government.
Labor Minister Manzoor Nadir said the government has ordered an end to the strike by about 17,000 workers, which he said could be "gravely injurious to the national interest" if it continued.
The sugar sector has seen sporadic stoppages over two weeks. Guyana Sugar Corporation acting Chief Executive Officer Paul Bhim told Reuters it was too early to say how much the strike has hurt output, targeted at 290,000 tonnes for 2008. But Nadir said Guyana has lost about $4 million in export earnings from the strike that began sporadically about two weeks ago but spread through the industry on Tuesday.
Sugar, rice, bauxite and gold and diamond mining are the mainstays of the economy of Guyana, an English-speaking country on the Atlantic coast of South America neighboring Brazil and Venezuela. This centrality of sugar in Guyana's economy is with little doubt a large part of what gives workers in the industry such high bargaining power with their employers, encouraging confidence in their collective strength.
About 13,000 workers crippled Guyana's sugar industry last year demanding a 12 percent pay raise to cope with inflation.