The current caretaker Government of Guyana has palpably shown its hand regarding the plight and situation that confront the thousands of the nation’s sugar workers who are, at this time, seeking to bring an end the wage freeze which has confronted them since 2015. If it wasn’t clear before, the sentiments of Ministers of Finance and Agriculture are a most vivid manifestation of the Administration’s crocodile tear-shedding on the matter.
The Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan in a November 20, report in another section of the media is quoted as having said “[t]he sugar workers come under a Corporation that has a board and they will have to deal with the realities of the Corporation”.
It seems to be that the Government has taken a hands-off approach when it comes to GuySuCo and the sugar industry. It appears to us that sugar, for APNU+AFC has become an unwanted stepchild not even deserving of any consideration or assistance from its ‘parents’.
For the GAWU and more so the sugar workers, their families, those who depend on the workers and their communities, this is indeed a disheartening and sad state of affairs. The disdainful treatment of an industry which has contributed immensely to our nation, from so many points of view is utterly disgraceful and exposes the anti-sugar worker demeanour of this now caretaker Government.
It is only just days ago, the Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence proudly proclaimed that her party has the workers’ interests at heart. But actions, as we have come to know, speak much louder than words. The Administration’s actions, on this matter, are a most clear demonstration.
The Finance Minister also said that the industry “…has to [be] commercially run and profitably engaged”. We, like many, agree with the Minister. But he should not feign ignorance, as he well knows that to reach that summit the industry requires assistance. The Minister would know probably better than his colleagues that NICIL-SPU – which has borrowed monies to allow the industry to regain its footing – has held the Corporation hostage and has locked away, for whatever reason/s, the monies it has borrowed.
The GuySuCo told our Union that there have been no releases of funds since June, this year, and they are worried that their plans to make the industry profitable will be undermined. But the goodly Minister will also know that even if that obstacle is overcome, which we are hopeful it will, the plan, as good as it is, cannot succeed without the support of the workers.
Certainly, the workers are upset, disillusioned and disappointed that they are treated in the crudest of ways by this Government which promised them all a “Good Life”.
Adding his voice on the matter was the seldom seen and hardly present Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder. According to a November 21 article in another news entity, the Agriculture Minister said “[w]e would like GuySuCo to be able to benefit from the bonus public servants are benefitting from…” This for us is patent hogwash and a sordid attempt to sound sincere.
The Minister who has direct oversight of the Corporation, from all appearances, has ignored – or is so disconnected from reality as he is perched atop his tower – the sad situation of the sugar workers. It certainly and undoubtedly causes us to wonder about what really occupies the Minister’s time and efforts if anything at all.
The Minister shared that “[n]ow we’ve right-sized, funds are being released for other parts of the Government. And we’d like GuySuCo to do well enough so all the workers can (benefit)”.
It appears GuySuCo and those connected are of a different ilk and are not important enough to receive any sort of benefit under the Granger regime. If the Minister and by extension the Government is as caring as they say they are, they would find means and ways to ensure that the workers’ situation is assuaged.
But the fact is they really aren’t and they seek to come across with a smiling, caring face, but really ready to plunge a dagger in the back of the workers.
Even the Minister’s political colleague, AFC Treasurer Dominic Gaskin is reported in the November 19, Stabroek News to say that everyone deserves an increase. It appears that Minister Holder, who oftentimes is missing in action, really has no conscience and clearly is scantily concerned about that hardship on the backs of the workers of the sugar industry.
The sentiments of two senior Ministers of the caretaker APNU+AFC Government is yet the latest in the series of admissions that the Administration has not even the slightest care or concern for the sugar workers. Their apparent disregard of the workers’ cries is disheartening and undoubtedly causes the blood of workers to boil.
This year while the Ministers and their colleagues are having a happy, jolly Christmas being able to celebrate with their families and friends in fine style, the sugar workers will see another bleak year-end season with hardly much to celebrate or being unable to afford to buy a little toy or treat for their children or grandchildren.
This is saddening, especially when Guyana next year is expected to benefit from massive economic expansion. Clearly, unlike Ms Lawrence’s statement last week, sugar workers are destined to be left behind yet again.
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