Work­ers are op­posed to clo­sure of es­tates

Weekend Mirror - - EDITORIAL -

Dear Ed­i­tor,

The

Guyana Agri­cul­tural and Gen­eral Work­ers Union (GAWU) finds it in­cum­bent to re­spond to Mr Gobin Harb­ha­jan’s let­ter ti­tled “Not doom and gloom for sugar work­ers” which ap­peared in the Septem­ber 16, 2017 edi­tion of the Guyana Chron­i­cle. Mr Harb­ha­jan seemed very up­set by the GAWU-or­gan­ised march and public meet­ing which was held at Cor­river­ton, Ber­bice on Septem­ber 12, 2017. Like Mr Harb­ha­jan says “ac­tion speaks louder than words” and quite clearly the work­ers by their ac­tions have demon­strated that they are op­posed to plans by the APNU/AFC Gov­ern­ment to sell­out Skel­don and to close Rose Hall and En­more/LBI Es­tates.

It seems that the erst­while gentle­man is fail­ing, for some odd rea­son, to rec­og­nize that the peo­ple have staunchly re­jected his Gov­ern­ment’s anti-peo­ple plans. It would have been thought that given the wide con­dem­na­tion that the sugar plans have at­tracted Mr Harb­ha­jan and col­leagues would have re­turned to the draw­ing board rather than rigidly and wrongly hold­ing on to their mis­placed plans. Gov­ern­ments the world over, even some dic­ta­to­rial-type ones, have gone down such paths but seems the APNU/ AFC Gov­ern­ment, which pro­fessed its love for the sugar work­ers, has cho­sen to break the mold.

We must ad­mit that we find it laugh­able that Mr Harb­ha­jan, like an er­rant driver go­ing up the wrong side of a one way street, main­tains that our Union hasn’t of­fered “sen­si­ble and work­able so­lu­tions” re­gard­ing the sit­u­a­tion in the sugar in­dus­try when prob­a­bly all of Guyana and many be­yond Guyana’s shores are fully aware that the Union on Fe­bru­ary 17, this year shared our thoughts with the Gov­ern­ment at a meet­ing led by none other than his col­league, Vice Pres­i­dent Ram­jat­tan. We urge Mr Harb­ha­jan, as we have done be­fore, to check with his col­leagues be­fore mak­ing clearly mis­lead­ing as­ser­tions. Also, Mr Harb­ha­jhan just to tell you, the Gov­ern­ment has never said to us that what we have pro­posed is un­mer­i­to­ri­ous.

De­spite the very ac­tive de­bate on sugar that has been playing out in the press for some time now, Mr Harb­ha­jan calls to at­ten­tion the strike data from GuySuCo. It seems that the Re­gional Coun­cil­lor and for­mer SEI Di­rec­tor is not aware that the vast ma­jor­ity of those strikes re­late to price dis­putes which con­cern just a few work­ers and are le­git­imized by the agree­ment be­tween GAWU and GuySuCo.

While the au­thor speaks about the de­cline in sugar pro­duc­tion, he, con­ve­niently or oth­er­wise, fails to ex­plain how de­spite the in­dus­try re­ceiv­ing $32B from the State, in the era of his Gov­ern­ment, is on track to de­liver its worst per­for­mance since 1990. Mr Harb­ha­jan just to let you know strikes have fallen by 44 per cent be­tween last year’s first crop and this year’s and rain­fall, though a bit un­usual, was just 15 per cent above the aver­age. Cer­tainly, the usual scape­goats aren’t the cul­prits. Then what is Mr Harb­ha­jan?

The parad­ing of the in­dus­try’s em­ploy­ment cost is most disin­gen­u­ous and ob­vi­ously meant to con­vey that sugar work­ers earn boat­loads of money. But we re­call the sugar work­ers be­ing told dur­ing the 2015 elec­tions cam­paign that they were un­der­paid and they de­served a 20 per cent in­crease in pay. It is in­trigu­ing all of a sud­den that the work­ers are earn­ing too much. Mr Harb­ha­jan’s clear du­plic­ity stands nakedly ex­posed.

Mr Harb­ha­jan then goes on to say that work­ers will not lose their jobs should the in­dus­try be pri­va­tized. Maybe it is that the au­thor has a crys­tal ball or per­form­ing some kind of ‘voodoo’. Ex­pe­ri­ence has taught us oth­er­wise and as Ja­maica has shown us there is no guar­an­tee all work­ers would be re­tained and they would re­ceive sim­i­lar ben­e­fits. Such a sit­u­a­tion is cer­tainly not in the in­ter­est of Guyanese and Guyana. We urge Mr Harb­ha­jan to be­come ac­quainted with the facts.

Seep­aul Narine Gen­eral Sec­re­tary

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