President of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) Lincoln Lewis launched a scathing on former President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday whilst speaking at the Albion/ Port Mourant Rally and March organised by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) to express solidarity with sugar workers (see other story on page 16).
Lewis acknowledged that the sugar industry had been in crisis for decades, and calls to place it on the national agenda to bring about a national response that would lead to solutions for the workers and society’s benefit, went unanswered.
“That sugar became hostage to political machinations, mismanagement, and refusal to address the problems in holistic manner, the workers, who have given of their toil and sweat, are today the recipients of bad decision-making,” he lamented.
Lewis empathized with the sugar workers, understanding their plight, which is similar he said to what the bauxite workers endured. He reminded the sugar workers that all workers have been engaged in a bitter struggle for the protection of their fundamental rights and freedoms.
“And (lest) it be forgotten. the relevance is to good governance, a living wage, safe and secure working environment, the right to work and earn, right to union of choice and freedom of association, opportunities to improve standard of living, and the right to involvement in the management and decision-making processes of the State and any institution that impact our wellbeing. These are not willy-nilly rights, but rights established in the International Labour Organisation Conventions, charters, universal declarations and laws“, he added.
The head of the GTUC then called for the current government to have consultations with the workers and a plan for their sustenance, unlike what happened under the Jagdeo government where bauxite was allowed to go.
“We must demand now that this government takes on board a consultative team and put in place a plan that will sustain the workers. Workers of this country continue to suffer. When bauxite workers had its woes we felt we were standing alone. The lack of solidarity for the bauxite workers was painful, and whilst noted and condemned, will not be repeated with the sugar industry, because we stand with you in support,” Lewis said.
The veteran trade union leader then turned his attention to former president Jagdeo, reminding them of the downfall of the sugar industry under his government while currently claiming to have a plan to save the industry.
“Those who are (burdens) on sugar workers let us not be fooled for the only reason they are now standing with you is to deepen their political ambition. When they had the power to give, they gave support to the fat cats at the top. Jagdeo said the industry can be saved and while he failed to put measures in place to do so when the levers of power were in his hands, demand of him that he now makes public his plan to save GuySuCo….,” the GTUC Head challenged the former president.
Lewis also brought to the workers’ attention the “more than 200 million US dollars “of taxpayers money dumped in the “no good” Skeldon sugar factory and Jagdeo’s government failure “to engage in consultation, involvement and participation with you and your representatives,” when it moved to close the Diamond Estate and reorganise the East Bank Demerara Estates.
“For those sugar workers to get their redundancy benefits they had to take GuySuCo to court. Do not be fooled by any in their own political self-serving agenda telling you today that they care about you…for when they had the opportunity to care they trampled you,” Lewis reminded the sugar workers of the fate of their colleagues under the previous administration.
The trade unionist reminded President David Granger of his campaign promise “about the Good Life… sugar workers, bauxite workers, public servants, teachers, and all workers want the Good Life…it is not only for him, (PM) Moses (Nagamootoo), his ministers, friends and families,” Lewis stated.