Former sugar workers decry economic state, plead with Govt to reopen estates

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A number of former sugar workers are calling on Government to reopen the four closed estates so that jobs could be provided as they complain bitterly about the social and economic issues they are now faced with due to the massive retrenchment of workers by the state owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).

Some of the former workers gathered today at GAWU’s HQ

The former workers vented their concerns and struggles at a press conference organised by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) at its headquarters in High Street and Wights Lane, Kingston, Georgetown.

Speaking on behalf of the thousands of sugar workers who were retrenched from the closed Skeldon, Rose Hall, Wales and Enmore Estates, the workers gathered at GAWU today said among other things, that “while some workers are receiving their full severance payments and others half, those sums can by no means support a family for more than a few months. In some families, husband and wife worked at the estate and for them the blow has been doubly harsh. At this time, workers simply do not know what would happen next. For many younger workers who have now begun adult life and have secured mortgages to build a home, some having young children, the situation is even more dire.”

The workers continued that “for them they would have just a few years of service and thus their severance entitlements would be nominal. They are now faced with the sleepless nights as they wonder how to meet those obligations or whether their properties would be taken from them and they and their families left homeless.”

Moreover the situation was described as more sinister for older workers as “they wonder who would hire them when they are not too far away from pensionable age. They who have given their best years to the sugar industry and worked hard to reach many of life’s goals now confront the sad reality they have to start over their working-life. Their dreams to reach aged sixty (60) in the sugar industry and to enjoy the fruits of their years of labour have been pulled like a rug from under their feet.”

The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICL) had officially taken over the divested sugar estates.

The takeover does not include any assets, lands or property for the Berbice estates of Albion and Blairmont and the Uitvlugt Estate on the West Coast of Demerara, as those entities will remain under GuySuCo for the foreseeable future.

The Special Purpose Unit (SPU) established under NICIL to oversee the divestment of the sugar corporation’s assets has since selected London-based PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to value GuySuCo’s assets so that it could be sold to private investors.

The complaints of the former workers who are calling for the estates to be reopened comes at a time when the Government had announced through its State Minister that they will be keeping the divested estates running since it would make more economic sense for investors wanting to buy the estates to see them functioning.

Monies would therefore have to be allocated to keep the estates running.

The political Opposition and other stakeholders such as the Private Sector Commission had long called, even before the thousands of sugar workers were fired, for the Government to not close the estates but keep them running even as they look for avenues to privatize.

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