GAWU at­tacked by KN for stand­ing up for sugar workers

Weekend Mirror - - EDITORIAL -

Dear Editor,

Guyana Agri­cul­tural and Gen­eral Workers Union (GAWU) at­ten­tion was drawn to an ad­ver­tise­ment ti­tled “Do Guyanese know these facts about the sugar in­dus­try?” which ap­peared in the June 15, 2017 Kai­eteur News. The whole-page ad­ver­tise­ment, some­thing which we un­der­stand is very costly, has sought to cas­ti­gate our Union and is seem­ingly in re­sponse to our forth­right stance in de­fend­ing the workers of the sugar in­dus­try in the face of the cold, heart­less plans pro­moted by the Ad­min­is­tra­tion. While GAWU holds no brief for the PPP/C which was also men­tioned in the ad, our Union be­lieves it is im­por­tant to bring clar­ity to some of the spu­ri­ous and ill-thought-out sen­ti­ments ex­pressed by ‘Con­cerned Guyanese’.

1. The Skel­don fac­tory was not a stand-alone project, it formed part of the wider Skel­don Sugar Moderni­sa­tion Project (SSMP) which en­vis­aged the con­struc­tion of the fac­tory, the estab­lish­ment of a steam and fuel gen­er­at­ing elec­tric­ity plant as well dou­bling the es­tate’s cul­ti­va­tion. It is, there­fore, in­ac­cu­rate to say that US$200M was spent to build the fac­tory only. Fur­ther­more, it is pub­lic knowl­edge that Guy­SuCo was also ex­pected to in­vest some of its own resources to­wards fruc­ti­fy­ing SSMP. It seems maybe ‘Con­cerned Guyanese’ has awo­ken from his/her slum­ber or is sim­ply be­ing wicked and mis­lead­ing;

2. To iden­tify Skel­don in­vest­ment as the rea­son for the Guy­SuCo’s fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties is most disin­gen­u­ous. The fact is that the Cor­po­ra­tion rev­enue went down by some US$40M per an­num as a re­sult of the EU price cut. More­over, the au­thor of the ad may want to ask the cur­rent Guy­SuCo man­age­ment of­fi­cials why is it that af­ter re­ceiv­ing G$32B since 2015 from the State that pro­duc­tion this year will be less than 200,000 tonnes sugar, well below Guy­SuCo’s ca­pac­ity;

3. We are told the Skel­don “will never work prop­erly”. But this de­fies logic as we have heard, through press re­ports, of the ready, un­so­licited in­ter­est in Skel­don. It will be in­sane for any­one or any or­ga­ni­za­tion to pur­chase some­thing that will never work. We must men­tion again that the Skel­don Co-Gen­er­a­tion fa­cil­ity brought to the cof­fers of Skel­don En­ergy Inc (SEI) over $9B through the sale of elec­tric­ity to the Na­tional Grid. Again, ‘Con­cerned Guyanese’ seems not to have ra­tio­nally con­sid­ered his/her state­ment;

4. To speak to Cam­bior’s in­vest­ment vis-à-vis Skel­don in­vest­ment is like com­par­ing or­anges and ap­ples. There is sim­ply no ba­sis for com­par­i­son;

5. ‘Con­cerned Guyanese’ won­ders about where the Skel­don monies went. The au­thor, whomever he/she maybe, should in­sist that the sums re­ceived by Booker-Tate which was charged with man­ag­ing the project should come un­der the mi­cro­scope. It ought to be noted that the Booker-Tate di­rec­tor at the time of Skel­don’s con­struc­tion is now-a-days firmly en­sconced in the Guy­SuCo hi­er­ar­chy;

6. The ad ar­gues ab­surdly that GAWU is seek­ing to pro­tect its union dues in­come thus its stance on sugar. If that were in­deed the case, why is it that the Union is call­ing on Guy­SuCo to pay the 350-odd workers of Wales their right­ful sev­er­ance en­ti­tle­ments? Many, if not all of those workers, will not re­turn to the Cor­po­ra­tion for em­ploy­ment and, there­fore, they can­not pay dues. ‘Con­cerned Guyanese’ is not seem­ingly con­nect­ing the dots but maybe is shoot­ing from hip;

7. The au­thor tells us that $17M is lost when­ever there is a day’s strike. By ‘Con­cerned Guyanese’ logic if the in­dus­try op­er­ates for 35 crop weeks per an­num its rev­enue would be $4.165B. For the au­thor’s in­for­ma­tion, Guy­SuCo’s rev­enue in 2015, the last year avail­able, was $21.4B. Again, ‘Con­cerned Guyanese’ clearly does not seem to know much or is mis­in­formed;

8. The ad goes on to speak about workers strikes, but ‘Con­cerned Guyanese’ ob­vi­ously fails to see the clear con­tra­dic­tion in the state­ment. He/she says on one hand, workers earn noth­ing when they strike but on the other says that union dues will be de­ducted. If a worker doesn’t earn, then it fol­lows he/she can­not have any de­duc­tions made.

We see the ad as a new low be­ing reached and the lat­est in the series of fu­tile at­tempts to dis­par­age our Union for stand­ing up and de­fend­ing the thou­sands of sugar workers and also the thou­sands linked to the in­dus­try’s op­er­a­tions. We no­ticed many of the sen­ti­ments con­tained in the ad are also par­roted by Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials dur­ing re­cent ap­pear­ances on the tele­vi­sion in Ber­bice. The sim­i­lar­i­ties are in­deed in­ter­est­ing and, it seems, there is more than what meets the eye.

The GAWU also sees the ad as a poor re­sponse in the PR at­tempts of those who are ef­fec­tively coun­tered by the mil­i­tancy of the workers and the con­sis­tent ex­po­sure of the mis­in­for­ma­tion that come out from the of­fi­cials and their apol­o­gists. It is dis­heart­en­ing that the ad ap­pears on the eve of the En­more Mar­tyrs Death An­niver­sary. It speaks ob­vi­ously to the level of re­spect those who are re­spon­si­ble for the ad have for the hard-work­ing, hon­est sugar workers and in­deed the work­ing peo­ple who de­pend on the in­dus­try, in one way or an­other.

Yours faith­fully, Seep­aul Narine Gen­eral Sec­re­tary GAWU

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