The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) on (Saturday) January 19, 2019 held its Berbice Area Conference under the theme “Protecting Workers Rights and Benefits in a Challenging Period”.
The Conference which was held at the Albion Sports Complex attracted approximately 130 delegates and observers from Albion and Blairmont estates and the Berbice Bridge Company Inc (BBCI) and Amazon Caribbean (Guyana) Limited where the Union enjoys bargaining rights.
According to GAWU, the Conference noted that the future does not appear to be bright notwithstanding the grandeur-like promises by the Administration’s spokespersons that conditions will be greatly improved in the country with the commercial production of oil.
Delegates pointed to the massive loss of jobs in the sugar industry and elsewhere where thousands of persons, in the last few years, joined the ranks of the unemployed.
Mention was also made of the contracting economy which did not give delegates great hope that brighter days are ahead as concerns were expressed of the massive declines in the country’s gold and foreign exchange reserves as well as the substantial borrowing by the incumbent Administration.
The Conference in reviewing the work of the Union, received the Report of the General Council which was presented by GAWU’s General Secretary, Seepaul Narine.
Several matters of concern were considered as the international, local and workplace levels.
Locally, delegates reflected on the slowing-down of the economy, the rising cost-of-living and increased unemployment.
According to GAWU, delegates were also peeved over Government’s handling of the impending oil sector and were also concerned that other industries were being ignored in favour of oil, which they felt wasn’t the wisest of approaches.
Concern was also expressed regarding the “disrespect meted out to our country’s Constitution, which the Conference observed was our nation’s foremost law and should be respected by all Guyanese” said GAWU.
On the sugar industry, delegates were particularly upset that thousands of sugar workers have been made jobless, in recent times, without any plans to address their well-being and welfare.
The Conference noted that the closure of estates were not going in the right direction, especially when one considers that there are real possibilities for the sugar industry to be turned around and put on a sustainable path.
The situation in the sugar industry which is characterized by confusion, indecision, and a lack of leadership also did not escape attention. Delegates felt that such a sad state-of-affairs was not helpful to the industry’s cause and more so the thousands of sugar workers.
The Conference also passed, unanimously, resolutions on the situation in the sugar industry; on the cost-of-living; in solidarity with the jobless sugar workers; on respect for the Constitution, and for a pay rise for sugar workers.
GAWU noted that the convening of the Area Conference is a requirement of the Union’s constitution which mandates the organizing of two (2) Conferences between the Union’s Congresses.
“Our last Congress – the 21st – was held in August, 2016 and the Demerara Area Conference was held in June, 2018″ said GAWU.