…as GuySuCo tells planting crew to cut cane
It appears that the one sugar factory remaining in operation on the East Coast of Demerara is on track for closure too. At least, that is the word of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU).
GAWU is the largest union of the state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
The “closure” would follow that of the century-old Wales Estate, which stopped grinding in December for the final time.
The union said it learnt of a number of the decisions yesterday after a delegation of cane planters employed at the Enmore and LBI estates travelled to its head office in Kingston and met with a number of officials.
According to GAWU, the 40-odd workers are deeply incensed with an instruction from the estate’s management that they have to engage in cane-cutting operations with immediate effect.
” The workers’ agitation was heightened vis-à-vis the Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) subsisting between the union and the corporation which stipulates their usual tasks. The workers, having considered that the estate management advised that cane-planting tasks are no longer available argued correctly that they are, in fact, redundant and they are, therefore, entitled to their severance pay,” the union said in its statement.
GAWU said that based on this decision, it is of the belief that the estate is being geared for closure.
“Interestingly, so far, no official announcement to that end has been made either by the Government or by the GuySuCo, yet the corporation is implementing steps indicating the estate’s closure.”
GAWU said that last Wednesday, it learnt that the cash-strapped GuySuCo was moving to end cane-planting at the East Demerara and the Rose Hall estates.
The union wrote to the Corporation’s CEO, Errol Hanoman, requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the development.
“Thus far, GuySuCo has not yet responded to the Union’s request, although it is an urgent matter. With the willful demise of Wales Estate, the closure of two other estates would likely elicit much condemnation, noting that there isn’t any credible plan to address the thousands who would be affected. No study was commissioned and the non-conduct of a socio-economic study would be an everlasting indictment on our decision makers,” GAWU said.
The union said it recalled that the operations of LBI Estate were amalgamated with Enmore Estate in the second half of 2016 in order to save the cane operations.
“Now just months later, the closure of the estate operations has been initiated. It demonstrates that partial political consideration has been given by the Government towards the industry.”
The union noted that the East Demerara estate employs no less than 2,200 employees in the field, factory, security, administrative and managerial sections.
“They and their families, among many others, stand to be affected by the harsh closure decision. We, once more, urge the Government to abandon this consistent anti-worker direction given the dire consequences to a major segment of the Guyanese working-class.”
The union said it feels constrained to draw attention that the latest step taking place at East Demerara estate follows closely on the heels of a reported statement by Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, that sugar will not die.
”Wales’ experiences are fresh in our thoughts, as hundreds have been sent on the breadline and to a state of despair. Hundreds more again on East Demerara Estate seem to be destined also to go this way, and worse too, seemingly at this time, are being denied their severance entitlements.”
GuySuCo is facing major problems, with billions of dollars in debt and billions more coming from the treasury annually to pay workers and meet expenses. Not only has it not been meeting production targets, but its cost of production has been twice what it is selling for.
However, with more than 16,000 workers involved, the issue has been a political one for the longest while.
Additionally, the large block of foreign currency being brought into Guyana by sugar has been a major factor against total closure at a time when the country badly needs foreign exchange.
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