May 26, 2015 News
– corporation tells unions it has no cash to pay staffers for May
The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) yesterday claimed that it has no monies to pay junior and senior staffers for this month and will be forced to close the industry by Sunday unless it finds some.
But the manner of the announcement through the main unions of GuySuCo has puzzled the new Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, who questioned the timing and wondered whether it was political.
According to a joint statement titled “GuySuCo may cease operations”, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) said that they were informed at a meeting yesterday by GuySuCo’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Rajendra Singh, that it was unable to pay senior and junior staffers for this month.
Also present at the meeting, the two unions said, were members of GuySuCo’s Industrial Relations Department.
“Further, Dr. Singh indicated that the corporation might have to cease its operations on all estates with effect from (Sunday) May 31, 2015 unless funding to the corporation becomes available within a few days. Should the Corporation cease its operations, the CEO explained all employees – waged and salaried – except security personnel would not be provided with work from (Sunday) May 31, 2015.”
The CEO also advised the unions that the Government has been apprised of the situation.
The unions said that it believes that the ceasing of operations by the corporation would further jeopardize the state of the industry and impact negatively on some 16,000 workers of the industry. The two unions are seeking that the new Government ensures the continuation of the industry’s operation at this crucial time.
Contacted yesterday, newly sworn in Minister, Noel Holder, expressed surprise at the developments.
He said that earlier in the day, he held a meeting with heads of the various departments under his ministry. These included Dr. Singh from GuySuCo, the Guyana Livestock and Development Authority, the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute and the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority.
However, there were no indications from the GuySuCo’s CEO that the corporation was in that deep trouble.
Rather, the Minister was handed a file of documents of about 100 pages.
“He (the CEO) indicated that he wanted to meet but did not say it was urgent. He did not tell me this morning of the gravity of the situation. I hope this is not a political move. There should be no question about our stated support of the industry.”
According to Minister Holder, the possibilities of GuySuCo coming for help and getting it is not impossible.
“They will have to tell us how much they want. And we will of course look at it. This in indeed strange.”
GuySuCo is in deep trouble. Consecutive sugar crops along with a poor string of performance for its new flagship US$200M factory at Skeldon has sunk the industry to a two decades low despite the release of billions for the corporation.
GuySuCo has failed to release a turnaround plan and Skeldon managed to only produce half of the targeted production for the first crop.
The industry is producing sugar at double what it is selling for and technical and agricultural problems continue to plague the industry.
Its biggest customer, the EU, has slashed the price of sugar by some 36 percent and is set to open its markets to other players, forcing Guyana, a preferential customer to now improve its dismal efficiency.
With over US$50M sunk into GuySuCo within recent years, the previous Government, under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, had promised to invest more than US$100M over a five year period to help the industry.
Recently, GuySuCo sold its Wartsila co-generation facility at the new Skeldon factory, just over five years old, to the Guyana Power and Light Inc. for US$30M.
However, it is unclear whether this money ever went to GuySuCo.
Last week, GuySuCo announced that its first crop fell short of the 86,201 tonnes of sugar by some 5,000 tonnes.
GuySuCo failed to disclose that Skeldon had done so badly, only managing about half of the 17,214 tonnes it had set for that factory.
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