Oct 06, 2016 News
Following a meeting with the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) on Thursday last, the Unions representing sugar workers said that their high expectations were shot down after learning about the Corporation’s plan for the future regarding the well-being of the 17,000-strong workforce.
The Unions: the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU); the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE); and the Guyana Labour Union (GLU) in a joint statement on Tuesday, said that they are deeply concerned and disappointed over the sugar industry’s future direction.
“The GuySuCo team headed by members of the Interim Management Committee, though saying it wants to safeguard the livelihood of the thousands who depend on the industry’s operations, painted an excessively dark and pessimistic picture of the current status and future of the industry.”
The unions stated that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Errol Hanoman, and the Finance Director, advised that GuySuCo, based on projections, until year 2025, will remain reliant on Government support for its operations.
The Unions pointed out the industry, in recent times, has benefitted from financial assistance to aid in the revitalisation of the sugar corporation but yet, the amounts sought by GuySuCo continue to increase year after year.
“The disaggregation of this financial support in the past and future, we feel, may be informative. We were, however, pleased to learn that production would reach 320,000 tonnes sugar during the 2017– 2025 period.
This favourable projection represents, possibly, the highest productivity level ever recorded given the fact that industry’s cultivable area will be reduced.
“We recall the last time the industry recorded similar production levels, was during the 2002-2004 period when the Diamond Estate cultivation was operable.
“To attain the projected target in times when even the Wales Estate cultivation is expected to be abandoned will indeed be praiseworthy. It indeed tells us that there is great scope for the industry to be turned around and for production to rebound.”
During the meeting, the unions said that it was revealed that GuySuCo, during the period 2017 to 2025, will remain a raw sugar producer – which the unions said is disheartening.
“Our Unions have long held the view that the industry needs to broaden its product base and it must be gradually transformed from a sugar to sugar cane industry in which the entire plant is used to produce various products.
“On this score, our Unions pointed out to the GuySuCo officials that the industry has much scope for diversification and drew to their attention the opportunities in the areas of bagasse co-generation, sugar refining and distilling.
“These initiatives also were recommended by the very costly Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the sugar industry. It is widely recognised that these areas offer viable opportunities for the industry to overcome its present challenges and be placed on a sustainable path.”
The Unions stated that the Corporation, however, did not address their suggestions but made mention of the project to plant rice at Wales as well as possible ventures into aquaculture, citrus fruits and dairy cattle.
These ventures, the Unions understood, will be pursued in the near-term but, if implemented, may or may not improve worthily the Corporation’s financial standing and, therefore, can be seen as “inconsequential.”
“Also, on this note, we wish to draw the Corporation’s attention to the Economic and Finance report of the Sugar CoI which explicitly recommended that the other crops be first pursued outside of GuySuCo lands. It is recalled that aspect of the Commission’s report was prepared by current GuySuCo Chairman, Professor Clive Thomas.”
The Unions stated that they also took the opportunity at the meeting to inquire about a wage rise for workers this year. However, the Corporation – according to the Unions – said that the meeting was not to address this issue.
“It seems, at this time, that sugar workers may again be denied a pay rise. This most discriminatory treatment, we warn, is not in the interest of the industry especially at a time when the commitment and dedication of all workers are required.
“Indeed, based on the Corporation’s projections and demeanor at the meeting, the future for workers does not appear to be promising.”
The Unions stated also that this can very well further “demoralise and demotivate” the workforce, including the Senior Staffers, further complicating the industry’s challenges.
“Importantly, at this time, the industry requires a knowledgeable management, a motivated workforce and financial support for a limited period. These are important elements in the industry’s on-going drive to overcome its difficulties, achieve its projected production level, and to play a more meaningful role in our nation.”
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