GAWU condemns “cold”, “heartless” plans for sugar industry

first_imgAs the public outcry continues over the seemingly fast-tracked redundancy of hundreds of Rose Hall Estate workers, their representative body, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has criticised the move of Government through the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), calling the actions “unkind”, “cold” and heartless”. GAWU on Monday contended that workers were caught off-guard by letters in light of an announcement by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon that the Estate would not be closed until next year.It was recognised that no alternatives were in place for the workers who would be affected, the Union said.“For [workers], it was then a great shock when they opened the letters to learn that they are no longer required in a few days’ time. And to add insult to injury, the sending home of the workers comes in the Christmas Season – a time of joy, happiness and new beginnings. This year, for the workers, their families and their communities, the season is filled with darkness and sadness,” the Union ominously stated.GAWU further expressed hope that the workers would be soon informed as to when they would be paid their severance benefits. The Union noted that on several occasions it had sought to have a definitive time from GuySuCo only to receive uncommitted responses. “Our Union understands that the Corporation, at this time, does not have the monies necessary to pay the workers. If what we heard is indeed true, this is adding to the callousness shown to the workers.”The Union feels that it is “saddening” that the Government is pushing through with its plans despite the repeated warnings by industry experts, civil society and other stakeholder groups about the repercussions of the decision to close sugar estates.“Furthermore, the Administration is certainly aware about the realities the people of Wales face. Yet, in spite of the compelling body of evidence and its own admissions, the Government remained foolhardy and is closing down estates without any real and workable alternatives in sight,” the workers’ representative body highlighted.It further disclosed that both sugar workers and GAWU were left questioning the State’s sincerity in protecting the thousands who stand to be affected by Government’s plans for sugar.“The displacement of so many poor, ordinary workers, in short, will be disastrous and will clearly push more people into an impoverished state. It is a matter which has quite rightly evoked a great deal of outpouring in our society and one that should touch our conscience,” GAWU added.Last week, Guyana Times learnt that some 961 Rose Hall Estate workers would be affected. Apart from the 400 who had received their termination letters, it was disclosed that 500 more workers could face the breadline. A few protesters vented their disdain for the workers’ treatment, and opted to demonstrate against Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo’s 70th birthday visit to Berbice last week.On Thursday last, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder had refrained from committing to a specific timeframe for Rose Hall’s closure. He had, however, confirmed that the Special Purpose Unit assumed responsibility for the divested Estate rather than GuySuCo.In May 2017, Government announced plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates, sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory, reduce the annual production of sugar, and take on the responsibility of managing the drainage and irrigation services offered by GuySuCo.The decisions announced by Government were met with various protest actions throughout the year. In December 2016, another Estate, Wales, was shut down and to date, many workers have not received severance payment.last_img read more