Says GuySuCo suffering ‘huge’ loss
President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday called on sugar workers to report more often to the cane fields and to help push the Skeldon sugar factory to full operation in order to ensure the survival of the sugar industry.
He said the government’s commitment to the industry is evident in the investment of US$212 million for various projects, including the construction of the new state-of-the-art Skeldon sugar factory.
“This is not gaff; this is US$212 million,” he told delegates at the opening of the 19th triennial congress of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU).
But he told sugar workers that they have to pull their weight. He bemoaned the fact that attendance has been poor. He also expressed concern about strikes by sugar workers, saying that while the government defends the rights of workers to strike, they must utilise the grievance procedure.
Jagdeo said that while sugar workers want more pay and additional benefits, they must face the reality that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is suffering “huge” losses.
He did not agree with GAWU President that poor management by British-turned-South African firm, Booker Tate, was responsible for the declining production over recent years. Instead, Jagdeo said that the changing climate, resulting in increased rainfall, was a factor that needed to be considered.
GuySuco, last year turned out its lowest production in 18 years – 226,267 tonnes, GAWU President Komal Chand said. GAWU represents most sugar workers in the country.
Chand laid the blame for declining production on the poor management of Booker Tate, saying that factors such as worker absenteeism are not new complaints against workers. He said this was also a concern in 2003/2004, but the industry still produced over 300,000 tonnes of cane sugar.
President Jagdeo urged sugar workers to return to that production level as a way of helping the industry out of its position of loss.
It was proposed by GuySuCo that the new Skeldon factory would have been capable of producing 110,000 tonnes of sugar per year at nine cents (US) per pound. However, the factory is now not operating at its full capacity. GuySuCo needs more sugar cane to grind at Skeldon, for it to operate at full speed, and is looking to private cane farmers to offset the deficiency it is currently experiencing.
Kaieteur News understands that the sugar corporation intends to help private cane farmers get financing from commercial banks so they could develop their lands into sugar cane cultivations, thereby, meeting the demand of the Skeldon factory.
Jagdeo proposed to discuss the sugar industry further with GAWU delegates at his congress, saying he didn’t want the media to “distort” whatever he wanted to say. The congress moves into its “business” discussions for two days, starting tomorrow, at the J.C. Chandisingh Secondary School, Port Mourant, Berbice.
The Congress, which is held triennially, will, among other things, reflect on the major activities of the Union since the 18th Congress in August, 2006, analyse the present economic and political situation, identify some challenges and tasks for the ensuing years and the election of a 50 member General Council.
The Congress is the Union’s highest decision-making forum and it is being attended by 600 delegates, drawn from the membership of our 14 bargaining units including the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc., Fisheries, Rum & Soft Drink, Forestry, Clerical and Timber entities.
The new General Council will, at its first business session, after Congress, elect a new Executive which will assist the General Council to overlook the affairs of the Union including its negotiations with employers and the promotion of the Union’s education work following the construction of the Union’s new college behind its Headquarters in Georgetown.
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