The Albion Estate on the Corentyne Coast in East Berbice has vacancies for 600 workers of various categories, and may not be able to meet its target for the second crop, which is expected to commence within a few weeks, if most of those vacancies are not filled by then.
GuySuCo Communications Manager Audreyannna Thomas made this disclosure at the Albion Community Centre while addressing a community meeting on plans for the entity.
“Albion Estate has a huge labour problem. Last crop attendance, Albion was about 60 per cent, we need you to help you to improve attendance for the second crop; we would like to get attendance up to 100 percent,” she said.
She also spoke of the 600 vacancies which currently exist at that sugar estate noting that the focus of the outreach is on the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (GuySuCo’s) Strategic Plan 2018-2021.
The plan, she explained, is essential to what will be done at the three estates remaining under GuySuCo – Uitvlugt, Blairmont and Albion – between this year and 2021.
At the turn of the year, 1181 employees of the Rose Hall Estate in East Canje Berbice and 1851 employees of the Skeldon Estate in the upper reaches of the Corentyne Coast were made redundant. Thus a total of 3032 sugar workers of the East Berbice Estates were without jobs at the turn of 2018.
Regional Chairman David Armogan also addressed the meeting held at the Albion Community Centre. He noted that people have lost confidence in the estate, and although a job shortage exists in the region, the Albion Estate may have difficulty filling those 600 vacancies.
Outlining that management needs to instill confidence in the workforce, Armogan added, “You sent home thousands of workers, and now you are short of 600 workers. What that tells me is that there is a lack of confidence by the workers. Because they don’t trust the estate’s management, they are moving to other forms of employment. What many of them did was to take the little pay-off that they got and invested it in something (so) that they can make a few dollars more, because they do not believe… The psyche in their head is telling them that the estate might not last much longer.”
Thomas said the Albion Estate is very critical to the development of Region Six. It maintains the drainage and irrigation system from Bush Lot on the Corentyne Coast; provides employment to a large number of residents of the region; and benefits many businesses by providing emergency services to the community.
Armogan had told those in attendance that a business plan is a course of action that a company is embarking on in order to achieve a certain goal. “The other aspect of a plan is that it has to be worked by people; a plan cannot operate by itself,” the Regional Chairman said.
Some 5700 workers from Skeldon, East Demerara (Enmore) and Rose Hall Estates were dismissed after GuySuCo had terminated their employment in 2017. Before then, over 1000 Wales Estate workers were similarly dismissed when the entity officially ceased operation in December 2016. These moves were in keeping with what Government has said were “cost-cutting measures”.
However, the David Granger Administration has been strongly criticised for not having a holistic approach to the age-old industry, as many stakeholders, civil society groups including the private sector, and opposition politicians called for social impact studies to be conducted before closures.
In December 2017, the Special Purposes Unit (SPU), which falls under the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), officially took over operations at Skeldon; East Demerara (Enmore), Rose Hall and Wales. It was announced that the SPU was overseeing divestment plans, by way of either selling off or restarting factories with minimal staff to attract investors – both domestic and foreign.
NICIL’s Special Purpose Unit (SPU) Head, Colvin Heath-London, has since announced securing $30 billion, in the form of a syndicated bond, to support GuySuCo and its remaining estates.
Since his announcement of the bond, concerns have been raised about Government’s vision for the industry and the genuineness of its actions thus far, since that very $30 billion could have gone into restructuring the industry while keeping all of the estates open and GuySuCo’s workforce employed and engaged.
Meanwhile, the Private Placement Memorandum for GuySuCo’s $30 billion bond has received much criticism from Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.
Jagdeo who is a economist by training, recently said he was shocked by the contents of the agreement, which now leaves more questions than answers. (Andrew Carmichael)