GAWU says Govt should ‘per­ma­nently post­pone’ clo­sure of su­gar es­tates, save jobs

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Govern­ment

has post­poned the clo­sure of the Rose Hall Su­gar Es­tate from the end of 2017 to some­time in 2018, and the Guyana Agri­cul­ture and Gen­eral Work­ers Union (GAWU) is urg­ing the Ad­min­is­tra­tion to make this po­si­tion per­ma­nent, so as to al­low work­ers to keep their jobs.

GAWU Pres­i­dent, Ko­mal Chand, gave rea­sons for this pro­posal, stat­ing that even dur­ing dis­cus­sions with the Spe­cial Pur­poses Unit (SPU) of the Na­tional In­dus­trial and Com­mer­cial In­vest­ments Lim­ited (NICIL), con­sen­sus was ar­rived at that the best po­si­tion was to keep the es­tates open.

“We feel t hat i s not enough. We don’t want them to push back; we want them to make the de­ci­sion per­ma­nent. It should be re­versed in­stead,” Chand told this pub­li­ca­tion.

The GAWU leader said of­fi­cials from the SPU are in­ter­ested in get­ting the es­tates func­tional. “They are talk­ing about get­ting the work con­tin­u­ing, and they might pause for a few months, and that may be for the en­tire first crop in the next year,” he added.

Chand said that if ev­ery­thing goes well, “they feel that both es­tates have the po­ten­tial to do well and to be­come sus­tain­able.” He noted that dur­ing a meet­ing with the SPU of­fi­cials on Novem­ber 14, they also ex­pressed con­cern with the re­moval of the as­sets of those es­tates, agree­ing with GAWU.

“In fact, we have com­mented on this mat­ter and we made this aware to the Guyana Su­gar Cor­po­ra­tion (GuySuCo)… It’s not pri­vate as­sets, but state as­sets,” Chand fur­ther stated.

The GAWU of­fi­cial told this pub­li­ca­tion that if the su­gar es­tates had not been na­tion­alised in 1976, most of them would have al­ready been closed by now. He said it is there­fore im­por­tant that Govern­ment re­verse its plans to pri­va­tise those es­tates and fac­to­ries, in or­der to save the in­dus­try.

How­ever, he noted, “es­tates would not be able to con­tinue on su­gar rev­enues, but they can use bagasse to pro­duce elec­tric­ity and some other stuff, which GAWU had sub­mit­ted in its pro­posal.”

He con­tin­ued, “Keep them open and make these es­tates more pro­duc­tive, to bring down cost. We are hop­ing that we halt the de­ci­sion to close and sell Skel­don and turn this in­dus­try around.”

State Min­is­ter Joseph Har­mon re­cently an­nounced plans to push back the clo­sure of the Rose Hall Es­tate to 2018. The de­ci­sion was taken to push back the clo­sure un­til works be­ing done by the SPU are com­pleted.

Back in May, Govern­ment had 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.

Ever since that an­nounce­ment, work­ers at­tached to the var­i­ous es­tates, backed by their unions –GAWU and the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Agri­cul­tural, Com­mer­cial and In­dus­trial Em­ploy­ees (NAACIE) — have taken to the streets in sev­eral protest demon­stra­tions, to sig­nal to the Govern­ment the neg­a­tive im­pact the clo­sure will have on work­ers and the econ­omy as a whole.

In fact, the Rose Hall Es­tate work­ers had only last week said it was not too late to re­con­sider clos­ing the fa­cil­ity at the end of the crop. One of the work­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Glen McCloud, had said the work­ers were hope­ful that there would have been a re-look at the in­ten­tion, hav­ing recog­nised the ob­vi­ous hard­ship that would re­sult from the es­tate’s clo­sure.

Last month, GuySuCo an­nounced plans to re­trench 2,500 work­ers by the end of this year; but GAWU said 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.

Work­ers be­lieve Govern­ment has no plans in re­gard to mak­ing pro­vi­sions for those work­ers who would be dis­placed by the clo­sure of es­tates.

As it re­lates to the Skel­don and En­more es­tates, State Min­is­ter Har­mon has ex­plained t hat t he SPU would have to con­duct eval­u­a­tions, sur­veys and in­ven­tory as­sess­ments be­fore any steps are taken to ac­tu­ally sell them.

It was re­cently re­ported that the Pri­vate Sec­tor Com­mis­sion (PSC) has sub­mit­ted a pro­posal for the ac­qui­si­tion of the East Coast De­mer­ara es­tate. A state­ment from Head of the SPU, Colvin Heath-Lon­don, last month de­tailed that an in­ter­na­tional ac­count­ing firm will be re­cruited to eval­u­ate GuySuCo’s as­sets for pri­vati­sa­tion and di­vest­ment.

Se­lected ten­ders were in­vited from Price­wa­ter­house Coop­ers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and KPMG to pro­vide the ser­vices to the SPU as in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial ser­vices provider. The se­lected firm would be con­duct­ing the val­u­a­tion of all as­sets un- der the con­trol of GuySuCo, in ad­di­tion to other ad­vi­sory and fi­nan­cial ser­vices.

Af­ter the win­ning firm is iden­ti­fied, which should be any­time, work will com­mence in re­gard to the val­u­a­tion of the as­sets. The prepa­ra­tion of a prospec­tus is ex­pected to be com­pleted by the end of Jan­uary 2018. (Inews)

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