Opposition, Govt clash over dismissed sugar workers, unemployment rate

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The Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament and Government Ministers on Wednesday clashed at the Labour Day rally on the issues of fired sugar workers as well as the high rates of unemployment in Guyana.

Opposition MP Vickram Bharrat blasted the Government for firing the sugar workers, contributing to the number of jobless people in the country.

Bharrat was at the time addressing workers at the Labour Day rally held at the National Park.

“Our teachers should be in the classrooms preparing our future generation and not on the street protesting for salary increases and better working conditions. Our bauxite workers should not block rivers and roadways to attract the attention of employers, union leaders and Government officials. Our sugar workers should not be put on the breadline, unable to provide for their families due to the closure of estates without assistance or alternative,” he told the gathering.

The MP added, “We are already faced with a high unemployment rate, especially among our young people in a country with such a small workforce. Today as we celebrate, there are over 30,000 Guyanese without jobs due to the closure of key industries and businesses, lack of education for employment in new and technical fields, a sluggish economy, contracting productive sectors, a complete lack of investments (are) among the contributing factors.”

Bharrat took the opportunity to remind workers gathered at the National Park that there are several persons unable to provide for their families and even send their children to school as a result of the move made by the Government to close the sugar estates.
However, Attorney General Basil Williams, who represented the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration at the rally, told workers the sugar industry was actually downsized to save it.

“We are not responsible for the predicament of the sugar workers in Guyana… we spent within the first three years $30 billion and what we were forced to do because of the Skeldon Sugar Factory… we have had to downsize the industry to save it and even those sugar industries that are now extant they are doing very well,” he added.

In this regard, the Attorney General said the Government will continue to “take care” of the sugar workers. He however did not say how Government has been taking care of the fired workers.

While responding to the PPP MP on the issue of unemployment, he assured that the Government is aware of the number of people that are currently jobless and is working to reduce the figures.

The Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara (Enmore) estates were closed in December 2017, leaving thousands of workers jobless. The Wales Sugar Estate was the first to shut down in 2016.
Only three estates are currently in operation – Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt.

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