Govt announces $1.8B payout for severed sugar workers

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Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday announced that the Government would give a one-off payout of $250,000 to each sugar worker who was sacked under the A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) administration. This will amount to some $1.8 billion.

He was at the time meeting with sugar workers at Skeldon, Berbice during a one-day visit.

Some 7000 sugar workers had lost their jobs at the end of 2016 when the APNU+AFC moved to downsize the sector; the majority came from Region Six.

“By January or so, each sugar worker, each sugar worker who was severed, would also get another $250,000 on their severance. That would be between $1.7 and $1.8 billion, because we have 7,000 workers who were severed who will all get that. If this is crucial, it is important that we fix this. It was a great injustice and many people stood out there and remained silent. Many of them to justify the action of APNU because of politics, but any decent person would have stood up and defended it. It was only the People’s Progressive Party,” Jagdeo said.

In addition, the Vice President also stated that 10,000 jobs are expected to be created under the Emergency Employment Programme (EEP).

“In every region, we will put together a facility, a facility to temporarily employ people and give them a few days/weeks of work – those who are unemployed.

“This region would have about 1000 persons who will be able to work on a Government programme for maybe three of four days per week, so that they can get to maintain their families while they are training or they are looking for another job.”

Pointing out the difficulties in the sugar industry, the Vice President noted that despite injecting $14 billion into the industry since returning to Government in August last year, the deterioration of the industry caused by the previous Government has resulted in the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) spending more than the revenue it is currently receiving.

“But when you access it from the social impact side, it is important and necessary spending,” Jagdeo pointed out.

The VP further added that the plan to have the Private Sector invest in the Skeldon Sugar Factory has seen the investors wanting to use the land, not for sugar production, but to produce electricity for the co-generation plants at the estate.

“We are having discussions with a number of people who want to do a joint venture at Skeldon. The problem is that most of them don’t want to grow cane for sugar, they want to sell power to the Government and they want a price for the power which is extraordinarily high on a long-term contract.”

Jagdeo noted that if Government purchases power at that rate, it will be twice as expensive as Guyana will be able to produce power from gas.

He said the proposal being put to the Government is that the investors would want to sell the electricity power at a cost higher than Government could produce electricity. “And therefore we will not be able to cut people’s electricity prices.”

Meanwhile, Jagdeo wants Berbicians to be able to benefit directly from the oil industry, and as such, things must be done differently. This, he noted, is because there are hundreds of jobs available in the sector.

“I met with all of the people and they are looking for hundreds of workers and cannot find enough workers. These are good paying jobs. The problem is how we get people from Berbice to work in the oil and gas industry.”

He said the Port Mourant training facility will be expanded to accommodate training for persons desirous of working in the sector. In fact, he noted that 400 persons from the region will be earmarked to be trained.

“We need about 600 to 700 welders for the oil and gas industry. Not everyone has to go back to the sugar industry, because the oil and gas industry the pay will be significantly higher than in the sugar industry, even with all of our efforts to reopen.”

He encouraged the youngster to start making use of the available opportunities which will be provided in large numbers. “You don’t have to get academic training like going and getting a degree. In a few months, you can become an internationally certified welder. So, once you get your certification, you can work in the industry,” the Vice President posted. (Andrew Carmichael)