Mass termination of workers, distressed state of sugar industry worrying says IAC

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In light of the mass termination of sugar workers countrywide, the Indian Action Committee has expressed extreme concerns regarding the ‘distressed state of the industry.’

In a statement on Wednesday, the organisation said that “the time has come for the Government and the company [GuySuCo] to set out in clear language what they plan to do to safeguard the livelihoods of the workers and their communities.”

Further, they asserted that the organisation is “adamant that if the Coalition Government goes ahead and privatizes a number of the sugar estates, that through some remedial plan for the workers of the industry and other beneficiaries, they have a viable option to benefit from the divestment of GuySuCo.”

Last week, Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) President, Komal Chand, confirmed that at least 500 Rose Hall sugar estate workers had received their termination letters.

He related that most of the workers had payments to them outstanding, and he expressed hope that the situation would not end up similar to what had obtained at Wales estate, where, after almost one year, workers are still to be paid termination benefits.

The IAC in their statement posited that it had urged the Government- in anticipation of the severe economic problems that would beset thousands of unemployed sugar workers- “to pay those workers who would become unemployed due to estate closure their severance which is due to them by law; to retrain these unemployed workers using monies that would otherwise have been used to upkeep these now closed estates; and to transfer a portion of lands of these estates to the unemployed workers so that they could make a new start in life and independently seek their own economic well-being.”

On Monday, it was reported that some 1,700 workers attached to the Skeldon Estate were fired. As of Tuesday that figure rose to 2000 employees, with more expected to receive letters on Wednesday.

In May 2017, Government announced plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates, sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory, reduce the annual production of sugar, and take on the responsibility of managing the drainage and irrigation services offered by GuySuCo.

However, some weeks back during a Post Cabinet Briefing, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, had announced that the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) established under the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) would manage the privatisation/divestment process of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and determine the way forward for Rose Hall Estate.

He had also claimed that closure of the Rose Hall estate was pushed back to sometime in 2018.

Inews however, understands that the Special Purpose Unit, under the Ministry of Finance, may have brought forward the plans to discontinue the services of Rose Hall employees.

This publication was also furnished with termination letters issued to workers attached to the East Demerara Estate (Enmore and LBI Estates) giving them up to December the 30, 2017 as their “last day of work with the Guyana Sugar Corporation.”

The operations of the LBI Estate were in 2016 amalgamated with those of the Enmore Estate, in a move which was slated to save the cane operations, according to GuySuCo.

Chand had related to Inews that many East Demerara Estate and Rose Hall Estate workers have already been terminated, and some of them have received their severance packages. He, however, said that payments to the majority of workers were still outstanding.

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