The GAWU has seen and considered Mr. Lincoln Lewis’ letter titled “Good sense prevailed in the sugar workers’ struggle for better wages” which appeared in the February 13, Guyana Chronicle.
Contrary to Mr. Lewis’ postulations, we are not discomfited by Mr. Jagdeo’s advocacy on behalf of the sugar workers. We believe that the Leader of the Opposition has indeed recognised the plight of the workers and has spoken out, on several occasions, in their defence. While Lincoln may believe that Mr. Jagdeo could have done more, that is his opinion, and one which he is entitled to, but one we cannot see eye-to-eye with him at the same time.
Mr. Lewis says that Mr. Jagdeo did not, in his view, address the industry’s long-term sustainability. Again, we must differ with Lincoln. We have pointed out before to the many tangible expressions of initiatives to engender the industry’s well-being. While indeed some did not turn out as expected, we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater and argue that nothing was done.
Lincoln speaks again about the EU monies for sugar. Previously, we had shared with him how those monies were utilised, and it appears he has ignored what was said. We don’t believe we need to repeat this again.
Reference is also made to the closure of an estate during the tenure of President Jagdeo. We surmise Lincoln may be speaking about Diamond, though again we demonstrated that this estate was closed long before Mr. Jagdeo ascended to the Presidency. Both bleating repetitions have been answered and clarified before, yet they appear over and over, unmeritorious in our view.
We find it disturbing that Lincoln would see to invoke that our responses to his missives are somehow politically motivated. One could argue that his missives are similarly inclined, though we do not believe this is the case. While we may not agree on issues, we want to advise Lincoln that we have no political motivations, and rather, all we seek to do is offer clarity and put matters in perspective. He, of course, is free to disagree, as he is now.
While, of course, we have the right to consider or not consider what the World Bank said regarding Skeldon, at the same time, should we have ignored the promising potential as was demonstrated by the empirical evidence? Regarding the bond, isn’t wages one of the issues which comprise the day-to-day operations of the industry?
While we are not saying that wages should be exclusively met from bond proceeds, at the same time, the bond is intended for investment, isn’t investment in the workers also worthwhile?
But putting aside day-to-day operations for the time being, Lincoln, quoting ostensibly the Trust Deed, says that the proceeds are intended to finance “…the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s long-term project and capital expenditure to acquire two co-generation plants to upgrade existing factories to produce plantation white sugar, to build storage and packing facilities…”
Well, we are approaching the halfway point of the bond, and not one of the projects referred to has broken ground, but interest and principal costs are accruing while the bond proceeds lie idle somewhere. The point is, even the investment contemplated, which expectedly will bring about betterment for the industry and the workers, appears nowhere on the horizon. Should the workers continue to languish?
We also wish to inform Lincoln that he was misinformed. Our Union and the GuySuCo have not reached an agreement regarding pay rises. What has happened is almost on the eve of General and Regional Elections, the Corporation has made a proposal regarding pay rise, which our Union and the workers are examining.
We endorse Lincoln sentiments when he says “…persistency and proof that nothing is given to workers, they have to struggle to achieve better conditions of work…” Indeed this is a case in point, as it is the workers’ struggles that have borne fruit.
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