With less than three months left for the end of this calendar year, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is forging ahead with the process of downsizing the sugar industry.
On November 11, 2017, some 250 sugar workers attached to the Enmore Sugar Estate in East Demerara will be officially made redundant.
This is according to General Secretary of the Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU), Seepaul Narine, who told this publication on Wednesday that the Union was informed of that decision.
Narine said he is certain that those who are likely to be affected by this move will face the same fate as those workers who were made redundant at the Wales Sugar Estate.
“I am certain it will happen, and I am most worried,” he declared, explaining that GAWU has made a request to meet with the management of GuySuCo to discuss the issues at the Skeldon Factory.
“We are unaware about what they are doing at Rose Hall, and at Skeldon there seems to be confusion.”
In a recent meeting held between the management of GuySuCo and the shop stewards and field secretary from that estate, it was disclosed that GuySuCo is not budgeting to have a crop for 2017.
It was further disclosed that, as of January, 2018, the special project set up under the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) will take control of the estate.
Only last week, GuySuCo announced plans to retrench 2,500 more workers by the end of this year. This will add to those hundreds from the Wales estate who were made redundant last year. According to reports, this will be the single largest planned layoff in decades.
Narine said GuySuCo has somewhat back-pedaled on its original plan, which was aimed at getting the sacked sugar workers to continue working in agriculture. However, as of recent, the Corporation had made mention that it would be seeking to have these workers trained to become mechanics.
“They are talking different things at different times. This is contrary to what they have put in the White Paper — that they will give the people land,” Narine contended.
A delegation from the European Union (EU) is currently in Guyana conducting various assessments to assist in transitioning into farmers the workers who will be made redundant, but Narine has said that GuySuCo has been silent on these actions and the overall plan to downsize.
“This is absolute craziness, because they haven’t said a word about what will be the future of the workers, and what they intend to do. The Government, in its White Paper, (had) said that they are going to divest themselves from Skeldon, so one would expect you to keep the property in good order and you maintain it properly so you get the best price; but we are seeing the opposite taking place,” he declared.
According to Narine, there has been no planting, no fertiliser application, and no chemical control activities ongoing at the estate, and these are all signs that there is an impending closure at year-end.
Earlier this year, Government announced plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates, sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory, and reduce the annual production of sugar, among other new measures.
Agriculture Minister Noel Holder had said that this process would result in improving the relationship with some cane cutters, estate staff, and about 1710 private cane farmers. He declared that GuySuCo’s sugar operations would be limited to the Albion-Rose Hall, Blairmont and Uitvlugt-Wales Estates.
The minister had also revealed plans to cut sugar production to approximately 147,000 tonnes per annum. This, according to him, will satisfy the demand in the local market (25,000 tonnes per annum); Caricom and other regional markets (50,000-60,000 tonnes per annum); the United States (12,500 tonnes per annum) and the world market (50,000 tonnes per annum).
The downsizing and subsequent closure of sugar estates would lead to the loss of more than 15,000 jobs and the potential threat of poverty for between 50,000 and 100,000 people.