GAWU says it is anticipating meeting with President over future of sugar industry

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The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) says it has taken note of President David Granger’s message on the disbursement of severance payments to the over 4,000 retrenched sugar workers.

President David Granger

According to GAWU, the message, read by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo during yesterday’s (January 10, 2018) Parliamentary sitting, has confirmed the worst fears of many workers that their full redundancy payments would not be honoured in a timely manner.

The President had said that over two billion dollars has been ‘estimated’ “to provide fifty per cent of severance pay due to all redundant workers by the end of January 2018, the remainder being paid in the second half of the year”.

Moreover, he noted that Government has “embarked on an extensive review of expenditure in every sector to the extent of reducing ministerial budgets in order to find funds to enable sugar workers to receive their severance pay.”

Among other things, the President had also posited that his Administration has earmarked $100 million to provide small loans for entrepreneurial activities which could open opportunities for employment after leaving the sugar industry.

Additionally, President Granger in his message outlined that “Government will continue to engage stakeholders, the Guyana Sugar Corporation, Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees and the workers.”

GAWU’s President Komal Chand

GAWU however, said that the President’s message has outlined that his Administration is finding it difficult to accumulate the funds required to offset the severance payments “though the Administration was aware for some months that the monies had to be found for such payments. But for the sugar workers who last received earnings on December 29, 2017, the repainting perfectly good buildings or building impressive fences as well as other extravagances do not seem to illustrate there is a lack of finances.”

the Union continued that “from the message we also gleaned that just 100 or 2.5 per cent of the displaced workers would benefit from training programmes that are organized. In terms of the sum of $100M being made available to workers for the pursuit of other economic endeavors, this is equivalent to a measly $25,000 per displaced worker. Such sums, we contend, is hardly sufficient to engage in any serious economic activity. That sum is even inadequate to get off the ground the heavily touted plantain chip and cook-up rice endeavours.”

According to GAWU, it noted also the President’s commitment to engage the workers’ organisations and said that they look forward to meeting with him and his Administration on the question of the industry’s future and the plans for workers.

“Just a few days ago, we sent to Minister of State, Joseph Harmon a request for such an interaction and we have every reason to believe, in light of the President’s statement, such an engagement would be soon forthcoming” said GAWU.

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