Letter: A news article far from reality

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Dear Editor,

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) was deeply disappointed to take note of the contents of an article appearing in the January 09, 2018 Kaieteur News which spoke to the sum of union dues that is being paid to our Union and our sister union – the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE).

The Kaieteur News referred to a sum of some $30M that our Unions are supposedly collecting on a monthly basis. This would have been good had the figures been reflective of the reality.

The facts, however, demonstrate that the figure quoted by the Kaieteur News is highly inflated and possibly a figment of someone’s imagination. Furthermore, our Union’s finances up to the 2016 year-end have been audited by the Office of the Auditor General, in keeping with the Trade Union Act, which has given our Union a clean bill of health. Soon we will submit our 2017 records for examination.

The Kaieteur News article, seemingly, goes on to charge that the GAWU’s stance regarding the plans for the miniaturization of the sugar industry is connected to safeguarding the Union’s income.

We find the Kaieteur News’ supposition both wicked and misleading. The GAWU has a long and proud history of standing in the workers corner in representing their several interest and advocating and struggling for better wages and working conditions against callous owners and administrators who have an uncaring, exploitative approach to workers. Our approach this time faced with a genuine life and death situation for many, has been no different. For us the workers well-being is paramount regardless of the implications, financial and otherwise, on our Union.

Moreover in our years of association with the sugar industry and GuySuCo, none of the plans previously advanced have been as grave as the plans to shut down estates in recent times.

This fact we recognized was noted by the Kaieteur News as well when it said “shops, suppliers, contractors and even taxis and short-drop cars were among those affected… so, too, would vendors who would have been plying their trade with snacks and even greens stands that were operating in front the factories. This is especially so in the case of Wales estate, West Bank Demerara”. Clearly, in view of the sad circumstances as described by the Kaieteur News, certainly, we could not stand idly by and not utter a word.

In seeking to paint our Union with the brush of blame, the Kaieteur News speaks to the number of strikes in the sugar industry. It seems that the Kaieteur News was not aware that Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, Keith Scott in his 2018 Budget debate contribution pointed out that strikes in the sugar industry are at their lowest level in years. Certainly, the worn out strike argument has lost its allure and basis.

At this time, we cannot help but wonder what are the real motivation/s of the Kaieteur News.

Is it the paper is being used to do the bidding of some who are now being forced to swallow their pride and admit their approach to the sugar industry was wrong from the get go. Our Union will not be daunted by tangential attacks which seek to propagandize an issue that has serious implications for Guyanese now and tomorrow as well.

GAWU believes that sugar has a viable future; this is buttressed by the substantial interests being expressed in acquiring estates which the Kaieteur News described as “least performing”.

The newspaper which is known for its ‘investigative’ reporting should seek to find out how is it that GuySuCo made a profit in 2016 though production sank to just over 183,000 tonnes or how is it that the senior management cost shot up by 80 per cent in 2016 when compared with 2015.

Clearly, there is a lot more than what meets the eye and rather than spuriously attacking the workers organization, the Kaieteur News may want to find out why perfectly good estates are being shuttered and thousands put on the breadline.

Yours sincerely,
GAWU

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