…Negotiations still ongoing for payment of retrenched workers
By Michael Younge
The Peoples National Congress-led A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change Government still has no concrete plan for the future of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) even though it has embarked upon a process of dismissing thousands of sugar workers and closing several key sugar estates across the country.
President David Granger on Friday admitted that negotiations were still ongoing between the Government’s Special Purpose Unit (SPU) which was set up to handle the divestment plans of the Guyana Sugar Corporation and the smooth transition of the entity’s assets.
He confirmed that that Unit was also responsible for handling the severance and termination payment negotiations with the unions representing the thousands of workers who would have had their livelihoods displaced as a result of the Government’s decision to downsize the industry.
“As far as a plan is concerned, there needs to be more work done by the …Special Purpose Unit which comes under the Ministry of Finance. That is the agency that is responsible for ensuring a smooth transition for those parts of the industry which will not be remaining in production under GuySuCo”, President Granger said during a press conference at the Ministry of the Presidency.
But he only made this admission after being reminded that several officials including the Agriculture Minister Noel Holder and Government Advisors publicly said that Government had a plan for the turning the fortune of the industry around since being elected in 2015.
A mere $6B is budgeted in the National Estimates for GuySuCo to handle its affairs despite the fact that $5B alone is needed to handle the payments due to thousands of workers.
“The work of the SPU is still being done”, President Granger emphasized before saying that “they are still in negotiation with GuySuCo. And they need are negotiating with foreign investors”.
He said it was his expectation that “before long we will have a plan that will explain how the lands will be disposed of but as far as the retrenchment benefits are concerned, the Government is responsible for ensuring that the Corporation fulfills its obligations to the workers”.
The opposition Peoples Progressive Party has been arguing that the Government is not following the recommendations outlined in the Commission of Inquiry report on turning the troubled industry around.
The party believes that Guyana’s economy will suffer tremendously as a result of the direct consequences which will flow from the decision to further downsize the industry and displace thousands of hard working sugar workers.