Our Union – the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) – feels it appropriate to respond to a letter which appeared in the name of Mr Abel Seetaram on May 25, 2017 in the media, in an effort to correct the serious misinformation contained in the letter.
While Mr Seetaram says he has no difficulty with the protest actions in the sugar belt, his haste to sign letters to the press does not give his utterances much credence. The Regional Councillor then goes on and accuses our Union of misleading the workers and the people of the sugar-linked communities. We ask: what mis-information is being referred to? Isn’t it factual that the sugar industry is being further minimized through further estate closures and sellout? Isn’t it true that thousands stand to be affected by those plans should they be implemented? This “positive move” as Mr Seetaram puts it, is a bitter pill to swallow. On this score, he is urged to get from his high-placed friends a copy of the GuySuCo’s proposals which are being embraced by the Government. There he would learn of the stark realities which would confront so many poor people in our country.
We agree with Mr Seetaram that steps must be taken for the industry to survive but at the same time we recognize the ‘steps’ proposed by the Government would do more harm than good. Here, we urge the erstwhile gentleman to acquaint himself with the developments in sugar. Among other things, he may very well come across the efforts in Jamaica to diversify their industry into electricity production and the recently inked deal for a co-generation plant to be established at one of the estates as well as a letter that was written by Isabelle de Caires in the May 25, 2017 Stabroek News which spoke to sugar diversification with respect to bagasse. These articles and others, we believe, would also be enlightening for Mr Seetaram. The fact is sugar can be saved without the resort to closure and sellout but, seemingly, no out of the box thinking is being employed for whatever reason/s.
Our Union is then charged as now only finding its voice. This we find as most laughable especially coming from Mr Seetaram and especially so too considering the community he resides. The unfounded statements speak to the desperate and low levels being sunk to. GAWU has always stood on the side of the workers at all times. He should ask his mentor about the time he asked Guyanese to light a candle for sugar workers. That exercise would clear up any misconceptions harboured by Mr Seetaram.
On talk about closed-door negotiations, we wish to advise Mr Seetaram that negotiations are conducted with the full involvement of the workers through their shop stewards. On the Diamond workers, he should ask a few members of his party, and he would surely know who, as they are very much aware of the reality.
Mr Seetaram’s letter is largely a regurgitation of his previous statements. We see it as another sordid attempt to cast aspersions on our Union. It is nothing more than a distraction from the cold, heartless approach to the sugar industry and the thousands linked to its operations.
The GAWU has a proud record of workers advocacy which speaks for itself and can be least bothered by baseless attempts by the likes of Mr Seetaram to besmirch that indelible history and diminish the praiseworthy role of sugar workers in the past and present.