Sugar workers of the Berbice estates on Friday told Head of State, Bharrat Jagdeo, that it is too late now to make more promises. They said this to him when he met with them in an emergency session at the Albion Community Centre.
The President had flown to the Ancient County to meet with the workers who had in the past supported the ruling party. Of late these sugar workers have been showing dissent and have been openly rejecting the party.
On Thursday some of the workers staged a protest in front of the PPP/C’s New Amsterdam headquarters, to highlight their dissatisfaction over the way they have been treated by the government they once trusted.
The latest protest had stemmed from the workers’ outrage over the tax deductions made on their recently received three per cent increase in salary.
Bharrat Jagdeo in his address to the not so enthused workers told them that recently he was told that they were not happy and he knows that they were disappointed with the government and with how things are going.
This, he said, has led many people to wonder about the future of the sugar industry, but things will change, he assured them.
He said that over the years the industry has been taking a beating due to various reasons. He told them that the government likes the sugar workers and is interested in them. That is why the government invested over US$200M in the Skeldon factory.
However, the factory which was built by a Chinese company has not functioned properly since its commissioning in August 2009.
Jagdeo told the workers that the intention is to take production up to over 400,000 tonnes (the sugar industry has been struggling to make over 200,000).
The President admitted that the Skeldon factory is not performing as it should and told the workers that they should not give up, that “we have to fix it”. The workers were told that plans are being made to contract out certain jobs in the industry. The Enmore Packaging Plant in which a worker recently lost his life due to it malfunctioning was also mentioned.
He said that the Guyana Sugar Corporation has been running at a loss and has so far wracked up a massive debt of over $5B and the Government has been bailing out the industry with close to $6B in subsidy so far.
President Jagdeo pleaded with the workers to give the government some more time, at least another two years and things will happen.
Jagdeo said the government will be giving Guysuco another $450M to cover for the three percent increase.
The workers had a barrage of questions on the One Laptop per Family (OLPF) National Insurance Scheme and old age pensions, access to treated water, and street lights.
A group said that it saw the President’s visit as a last minute pitch to buy their votes. One worker said. “Boat gone ah falls, it cyan turn back”. Another shouted, “too late too late shall be the cry”. Each worker was paid for the day and given meals.
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