FITUG, GTUC against agri min­istry re­gain­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for GuySuCo

-cite failed lead­er­ship

Stabroek News Sunday - - NEWS -

The two ma­jor trade union um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tions have come out against any move to trans­fer re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Guyana Sugar Cor­po­ra­tion (GuySuCo) from the Min­istry of Fi­nance and the Na­tional In­dus­trial and Com­mer­cial In­vest­ments Lim­ited (NICIL) back to the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture be­cause of the fail­ure of its past lead­er­ship.

“Mov­ing back, it is gen­er­ally recog­nised, is not usu­ally a step in the right di­rec­tion. Our or­gan­i­sa­tions strongly up­hold that it is time to end the hop­scotch­ing ap­proach to the sugar in­dus­try in the in­ter­est of all con­cerned,” the Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) said in a joint state­ment is­sued on Fri­day, while not­ing that they “can­not lend a sup­port­ing voice to the in­trigues play­ing out in the cor­ri­dors of power re­gard­ing the sugar in­dus­try.”

Both um­brella bod­ies said they were ex­tremely dis­mayed to learn that at­tempts are be­ing made, and pos­si­bly a process has been put in mo­tion, to trans­fer the re­spon­si­bil­ity for GuySuCo back to the Agri­cul­ture Min­istry.

They warned that the sugar in­dus­try can­not to be placed “back in the hands of those who pro­vided such ru­inous lead­er­ship” and added that it was not in the in­ter­est of the Guyanese, es­pe­cially the tens of thou­sands who de­pend on the in­dus­try’s op­er­a­tions. Mov­ing in that di­rec­tion, they said, will only in­flict fur­ther harm on the 400-year-old sugar in­dus­try - the oldest eco­nomic en­deav­our in the coun­try - and set back progress and de­vel­op­ment.

While NICIL has not had the proud­est of records, they noted the at­tempts be­ing made to re­sume op­er­a­tions at the three re­cently closed es­tates. Pleased with this de­vel­op­ment, they nev­er­the­less, ex­pressed con­cern over the con­tract­ing of 1,000 work­ers who have, re­port­edly, been reem­ployed. Though said to be a tem­po­rary ar­range­ment, they said, they can­not turn “a Nel­son’s Eye” to the ex­pan­sion of such in­for­mal em­ploy­ment re­la­tions.

They called on the con­trac­tors to pay work­ers’ Na­tional In­sur­ance Scheme con­tri­bu­tions, to pro­vide the re-em­ployed work­ers with per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment and to en­sure that other rights, guar­an­teed through lo­cal laws and in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tions, are up­held.

FITUG/GTUC also wel­comed the re­cent $30 bil­lion fi­nanc­ing se­cured to im­prove the vi­a­bil­ity of the re­main­ing GuySuCo es­tates and said they look for­ward to the plans be­ing made public. A work­able plan, they said, must in­volve the work­ers and their or­gan­i­sa­tions to reach the de­sired goals.

The large de­cline of the in­dus­try in 2016 and 2017, they added, caused them to lose hope in the old man­age­ment team that did ev­ery­thing to alien­ate the work­ers and their unions.

They have been fol­low­ing closely, they said, re­cent de­vel­op­ments in the sugar in­dus­try in which some 7,000 work­ers have lost their jobs fol­low­ing the clo­sure of Skel­don, Rose Hall, East De­mer­ara and Wales es­tates in the last two years.

De­spite re­peated calls and ad­vice not to pro­ceed in this di­rec­tion, they said, GuySuCo, un­der its pre­vi­ous lead­er­ship, pro­ceeded with “a dis­as­trous pol­icy” that has se­verely un­der­mined the so­cial fab­ric in sev­eral sugar com­mu­ni­ties and has clouds of de­spair hov­er­ing over thou­sands of or­di­nary Guyanese.

Sugar pro­duc­tion, they noted, de­clined by over 40% be­tween 2015 and 2017 in spite of sup­port pro­vided by the State, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously, work­ers and their rep­re­sen­ta­tive or­gan­i­sa­tions were treated in “a most dis­taste­ful and dis­dain­ful man­ner” and sev­eral of their hard won ben­e­fits taken away.

They also said they could not for­get the mas­sive fail­ure of GuySuCo’s Other Crops Di­vi­sion which, de­spite mil­lions spent, has not got­ten off the ground. They noted also the for­mer cane fields con­verted for seed paddy at Wales that are be­ing over­taken by bushes.

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