The Guyanese Solidarity Movement (GSM) in New York has written Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, expressing its concerns about the Government’s decision to close the Wales Sugar Estate this year-end.
In the letter dated April 8, 2016, the Diaspora group said that over the years, the sugar industry has served Guyana well, and suggested that what is now needed is a long-term strategy and a commitment from government to compromise and find a consensus among stakeholders on the way forward.
“There is no doubt that public opinion is on the side of saving the industry. And there is, too, an important body of opinion willing and able to weigh-in on the issue, in the interest of the nation. A knee-jerk, reflex reaction is not the right response to this crisis”, the letter stated.
The following is the full letter sent to Minister Holder:
NO NEED TO CLOSE WALES, MINISTER HOLDER
The diaspora community in New York and members of the Guyanese Solidarity Movement-New York (GSM-NY) are deeply concerned about the vision for the sugar industry under your Administration. At this time, we are convinced that if sugar fails, the Minister and the Ministry fail. The recovery and gains achieved in recent times, with international assistance and the efforts, hard work, and sacrifice of all Guyanese would be lost and before you know it, Guyana will once again be in the doldrums.
The closure of sugar factories, commencing with the Wales factory this year, the stagnation of wages, the undermining of incentive payments, the refusal to negotiate in good faith with the Unions of the worker’s choice and an uncertain future – the Damocles sword of painful job losses and dislocation of workers – will soon drain the life blood not only of the industry, but also of all the communities in the sugar belt and eventually the country.
Sugar served Guyana well throughout history, and what is now needed is a long-term strategy and a commitment from government to compromise and find a consensus– an ‘open-door democracy’ if you will– among stakeholders on the way forward. There is no doubt that public opinion is on the side of saving the industry. And there is, too, an important body of opinion willing and able to weigh-in on the issue, in the interest of the nation. A knee-jerk, reflex reaction is not the right response to this crisis.
We urge you to listen to the cries of the workers and the voice of reason and to commit to return the industry to its glory days for the benefit of all Guyanese. The need to save the sugar industry is of utmost national importance and we propose the following measures be implemented forthwith:
- Scrap the closure plans of Wales and any other estate and adopt interim recovery measures.
- End the harassment of the Unions and negotiate in good faith with them.
- Stop the discrimination in wage increase and benefits for sugar workers.
- Initiate a national dialogue with all the stakeholders in the industry– unions, opposition parties, civic society, experts and the Minister– to address the situation.
- Work toward a consensus on the way forward for sugar.
The impact of sugar on the nation is both economic and social and a dynamic industry is good for workers, communities, and the agricultural sector. It is imperative that the opportunities for dialogue be seized now before it’s too late.
We believe that if the Administration is serious about its self-claimed pronouncement on national unity and development, it will accept and work expeditiously to implement the above suggestions which will in the long term save the industry, improve the living standards of the sugar workers, and put the economy in a better standing.