Letter: The problem in the sugar industry is those who are incapable in their tasks

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Dear Editor,

Alleged GuySuCo employee, Mr Francis McGowan, in the July 15, 2022 Kaieteur News, sought to express criticism of the GAWU and by extension sugar workers for actions taken in standing-up to defend their rights and conditions. The accusations utilised by the ‘GuySuCo employee’ are certainly not new and have been used time and again by enemies of GAWU and the sugar workers.

As in the past, the actions of sugar workers to demand that their conditions-of-work be respected; the stance against the perpetuation of injustices, and their call for the industry to managed in a proper manner have gotten under the not-too-thick skin of the GuySuCo ‘specialists and professionals’. Despite their linguistic gymnastics and contrary to their hopes, sugar workers are not fooled by hollow propaganda. They are there on the ground and the truth cannot escape them.

Mr McGowan, who may well be a pseudo-writer, charged that GAWU’s approach is ‘outdated’. We wonder how did the ‘employee’ reach such conclusions? Our approach is grounded in the principle that workers’ rights and conditions must be upheld, what is so outdated about that? All over the world, workers are struggling as they heighten calls for respect and justice.

Such struggles are taking place in societies far more advanced than ours yet when the Guyanese sugar workers raise their voices, their and their organisation’s calls are suddenly outdated. What really is outdated is those who still believe that workers must remain meek while the certain untouchables perpetuate assaults on their rights and conditions. Indeed, for the GAWU it is saddening that workers must protest to get their annual leave payments. These matters have long been settled yet the modern-day ‘maharajas’ want to ignore their rights.

The ‘employee’ charged we are not being honest with sugar workers. Were we dishonest when we said the first crop 2022 production was the lowest in GuySuCo history? Were we dishonest to say that large areas of the cultivations at Albion and Blairmont estates were abandoned? Was it dishonest to point out that tillage tractor utilisation was not being maximised?

Is it dishonest to express the view that GuySuCo management requires strengthening? Or is it dishonest to express concern that despite substantial investments, the leadership of the sugar company has little to show? Could it be dishonest to hold that rather than attempting to pursue repairs to the gear at the Uitvlugt factory it would have been more prudent to order a new one? Where was the dishonesty that is spoken about?

Mr McGowan, in his misinformed propaganda, said, ‘we have uncovered’. Who is this ‘we’ he speaks of? Is it really ‘we’? Or is it a certain ‘he’? Whatever may be the case we wish to tell him or them, that the union’s finances are audited up to the end of 2020 and work is advancing in respect of 2021. Can the same be said of GuySuCo? We are also treated to further distortion regarding our recent attendance to the WFTU Congress, an organisation that has stood by GAWU in all times. Nonetheless, his unfamiliarity stands nakedly exposed as our union received support to participate in this important working-class activity. Did GuySuCo receive similar support during recent overseas jaunts?

We are told about the Government’s support to the workers of Uitvlugt estate. Certainly, the workers are most appreciative and grateful, contrary to the beliefs of a certain ‘chief’. However, does that support give GuySuCo the right to cheat workers out of their legitimately earned benefits? Does it give it permission to allow the Corporation to ignore the sincere calls of the workers? We would want to believe Mr McGowan would not want to be denied what he is entitled to, so why should the sugar workers be chastised for seeking fairness?

The union vehicles and renovations also attracted attention. Is it that those of Mr McGowan’s ilk would wish for union officials to utilise donkey and horse carts or bicycles? Or maybe their desire is for union buildings to appear in a poor state? Such expressions, in our view, demonstrate that the old colonial mentality has returned. While expressing criticism, Mr McGowan may want to find out whether it is true that certain exquisite, top-of-the-line European automobile was being procured for the Corporation until reportedly a sudden halt was placed? Also, he may wish to enquire what has happened to the reported down payment?

Similarly, he should let us know about the massive renovations at a certain company house which reportedly went over budget and variations approved contrary to the company’s policy? Or could he tell us about a reported ostentatious private get-together that is said to have had several sugar workers engaged in various activities? Of course, all of this is reportedly happening when it is said workers should not express any resentment to their rights being trampled.

GAWU is said to be problematic but the real problem is that our union is not ignoring the real challenges in the industry and those who are responsible. We are not cowed by propaganda and false narratives. The GAWU and the sugar workers have had a proud history of standing up and raising their voices. We will not be deterred in our calls for the workers to be respected.

Yours faithfully,
Seepaul Narine
President
GAWU