I do not intend to answer every point made in the letter by EB John on January 8 in the Stabroek News (‘The Guysuco management reconstruction seeks to upgrade performance while diminishing the status of most of the targeted performers’). I am sure GuySuCo would do so. However, as an observer I would like to clarify some misconceptions.
The sugar industry in Guyana has changed in many ways over the years and will continue to do so. The examples are obvious, such as the change from bulk sugar to retail packets, field mechanisation, co-generation, bio-fuels, etc. Significant changes such as these pose new and different challenges for the industry and the need for GuySuCo to respond is overwhelming. Maintaining the ‘status quo’ is not an option in these circumstances and to do so would inevitably lead to a worsening of an already dire financial situation for the corporation.
The structure of GuySuCo as an organisation has evolved over many years, often with relatively minor adjustments being made in response to changing circumstances. The structure has developed over time to its current position but, with technological changes, financial and market pressures all coming to bear, it is an appropriate time to make the changes to the organisational structure – starting at the senior management level – in order to prepare the corporation for the challenges ahead. The restructuring is about shaping the organisation into the most effective structure to enable management and employees to deliver the best possible results in the future.
As far as I understand, the key feature of the restructuring is the grouping of the eight estates into two regions – Demerara and Berbice. The Demerara Region comprises Enmore, LBI, Uitvlugt and Wales, while the Berbice Region includes Albion, Blairmont and Rose Hall. Each region is headed up by a Regional Director (RD), reporting to the Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO), with the Estate Manager reporting direct to the RDs. The Agriculture and Factory Managers report to the Estate Manager, whilst the Finance and HR Managers report to their respective Head Office functionary. Skeldon will continue to operate independently, reporting to the DCEO. I do hope the company will clarify if I am wrong.
The move of the GuySuCo Head Office from Demerara to Berbice is not as unbelievable as the writer makes out. Berbice is the bigger producer of sugar, the new bridge is now in operation and communication will be no more difficult from Berbice to Demerara than it is currently from Demerara to Berbice. In regard to redundancy, the corporation has a policy of looking for alternative work when any restructuring takes place, and redundancy is the last resort when there is no suitable vacancy for the individual.
The annual savings referred to in the transfer of GuySuCo’s Head Office from Demerara to Berbice are the expected savings in manpower. Naturally there will be a cost in moving the offices and the people, but this will be covered by land sales. Those who work in the sugar industry know GuySuCo has a long history of moving people from estate to estate which is why the corporation maintains its housing stock.
The corporation has many more challenges to face; a few examples are the final price cut to the EU of 22% from October 1, increasing rainfall and fewer opportunity days, loss of skills and experience, mechanization, poor attendance and productivity, a volatile exchange rate between the US$ and the euro, fuel and fertilizer prices varying by up to 300% and world freight rates that have been on a recent rollercoaster ride. I am sure the restructuring and movement of the Head Office is just one small step on the road to making the industry stronger and more resilient to face the new inevitable challenges that are around the corner.
Like many interested Guyanese, I await the full details of the turn-around plan hinted at by the government.