The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Association (IUF), an international trade union confederation, is urging the Guyana Government to actively look into the plights that have befallen the thousands of sugar workers who are suffering due to the sector’s ‘restructuring’.
In a letter from the IUF, through its General Secretary, Sue Longley, to President David Granger, dated May 10 2018, the international body said; “taking account of the information we have been receiving, we cannot help but be saddened by what has taken place as thousands of sugar workers, in recent months, have been made redundant.”
Moreover, the entity noted that from their vantage point, “[they] cannot fail to express [their] view that very little thought has been given to address the well-being and welfare of the thousands who have been affected.”
The IUF further noted that according to the information they have received regarding the impact of the Government’s decision, it has been highlighted that the outcomes have resulted in nothing short of significant disruption of village economies and the social fabric of communities.
“For us, [this] is disturbing,” they said in the letter to Granger.
In addition, the body said that it is aware that even though Government was advised to pursue the necessary studies to better grasp the eventualities that will flow from its reform plans, the Administration did not move in this direction.
“We must share with you, Mr President, that this was necessarily the wisest of positions. Nevertheless, we are where we are and today too many of your country’s men, women and children have found themselves facing tough and difficulties times. We are sure, Mr President, that you cannot be comforted by this fact,” the IUF Secretary General said.
He also referred to a recent visit to Guyana where he and his colleagues had the opportunity to meet with a group of the affected workers.
“For us, hearing first hand from the workers, their stories of survival and struggle as they live day in and day out, was heart rending and very moving. It is difficult for us to imagine what has taken place in the days and weeks that followed that interaction.”
The IUF further warned that if Government leaves the situation unchecked, it would prove to not be in the best interest of Guyana and its citizens “who like all of us are seeking better and brighter days ahead.”
Meanwhile, the Guyana Agricultural and General Worker’s Union (GAWU) has since expressed appreciation towards the IUF’s support, noting that they too hope that the President will consider, rationally, what the IUF has written and will seek to remove the steadily increasing burdens that the former estate workers face.
The Wales Estate was closed by Government in December 2016, followed by East Demerara, Skeldon and Rose-Hall estates later in 2017.
Government had said that it did not have the funds to upkeep these estates in the sugar sector and as such, an excess of 7,000 sugar workers were made redundant and left jobless.