The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) together with Canada’s largest private sector union – UNIFOR – will convene a special one day conference titled “Sugar – too big to fail” on Tuesday at the Grand Coastal Hotel, Le Ressouvenir, East Coast Demerara.
The one-day event will bring together decision-makers, present and former sugar workers, executives of the Guyana Sugar Corporation, trade unionists, politicians, among others who will consider the consequences and the ramifications of the decisions that have been taken with regard to the industry in recent times.
Moreover, the one-day activity will reflect on the situation which now confronts thousands of Guyanese in the sugar belt. The conference will also seek to examine, rationally, the current state of the sugar industry and the avenues available to put the industry on the road to sustainability and viability.
“The conference will receive presentations from a number of prominent personalities. Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo is also slated to provide the Opposition’s thoughts and concerns about the industry,” according to GAWU.
NICIL-SPU Head, Colvin Heath-London is also expected to inform participants about plans and programmes that will be implemented to safeguard the minimized GuySuCo using funding from the recently secured $30B bond.
Former GuySuCo General Manager, Vishnu Panday will deliver a presentation to point to the importance of proper agronomic practices towards improving production and productivity.
Also attending will be Vice President of the University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU) of Jamaica, Clifton Grant, who will give a presentation on the Jamaican workers’ experience following the privatization of that industry.
Previously, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon had indicated he would provide a presentation on the Government’s behalf. However, on Thursday, he advised he could no longer attend the conference.
According to the union, it has written the Government seeking that a suitable replacement be identified.
“The conference will also hear from some of the former sugar workers who were employed at the closed estates. From them we expect to learn about how their lives have changed since the estates have been closed and how to manage to face up to life’s responsibilities in an era of nearly no income. This for us is an important element of the conference and will serve to remind those present of the real impact of the decisions related to the industry and the strong need to meaningfully address them.”
Addressing the conference also will be GAWU’s President, Komal Chand who will reiterate, among other things, the union’s position with regard to the decisions on the sugar industry.
UNIFOR’s President, Jerry Dias will also address the conference and share his union’s thoughts and concerns regarding the sugar industry and, from his own experiences, offer advice on what could be done on the painful road ahead.
Dias, who is Guyanese by birth, was elected as UNIFORs first National President at the union’s Founding Convention during the Labour Day weekend of 2013. He is an experienced and trusted negotiator and organizer, taking on corporate giants from General Motors to Boeing to Coca-Cola.
Dias, GAWU noted, “is a committed trade unionist, focused on the needs of local union leaders and rank-and-file members. His dedication has earned him the trust of members and shop floor bargaining committees right across Canada”.
“GAWU is grateful for UNIFOR’S sponsorship of the timeliest attempt to really deal with the toll that past decisions have taken on the lives of sugar workers and we are particularly glad that a Guyana-born leader of Canada’s biggest private sector union will lead the charge – Sugar is too big to fail.”
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