Sugar layoffs to hit 4,000 by yearend

-no alternative employment on horizon

By December 29, approximately 4,000 employees across the sugar industry will be without a job, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) says.

Speaking to Stabroek News on Thursday, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the sugar company, Audreyanna Thomas confirmed that around 4,000 workers across the various estates are going to be made redundant before the end of the year. At last count, the industry was said to have had approximately 17,000 workers.

When questioned about the breakdown of numbers for each estate, Thomas related that the sugar company is currently in the process of auditing their figures and is only able to provide an industrywide number.

In a bid to assist the retrenched workers and the sugar dependent communities and their surrounding environs which will suffer from the imminent mass layoffs and closure of estates, Thomas emphasized that GuySuCo will still be pursuing their Sustainable Communities Development Programme, Alternative Livelihood Programme and the Social Resilience Initiative.

Despite the corporation knowing that it was going to lay off thousands of workers before the end of the year, the programmes did not begin before the mass layoffs which Thomas said was the company’s fault.

“I am not going to say we did everything perfectly because this is the first time that such a massive reorganization is happening in the country and maybe even in the Caribbean and it’s really a lot we are trying to do,” she said.

The Rose Hall sugar factory’s last day in operation earlier this month.

“It is also a learning curve for us but what I can say is that we are building some very strong partnerships to implement the Alternative Livelihood Programme as well as the Sustainable Communities Development Pro-gramme,” Thomas added, while pointing out that they are currently working along with the Ministry of Business and the Small Business Bureau, who are offering their expertise in terms of developing and managing small businesses.

She said they are also working along with various training institutes across the country to assist with the re-training of employees who have been made redundant.

“I’m not saying that everything was perfect but what I am saying is that we are now building strong partnerships to help us in the implementation of the programmes and developing social resilience for the sugar dependent communities,” Thomas related.

She added that the sugar company is hoping to start the Alternative Livelihood Programmes tomorrow with the Wales and East Demerara Estates. The first three programmes: sewing, tailoring and catering are expected to have a first batch of 35 persons and will last for five days. After this, the training institution will conduct an assessment to determine whether the participants can advance.

After that, the sugar company is planning to start other training in January such as plumbing, mechanic, carpentry, joinery and masonry and it will be assisted by the Guyana Industrial Training Centre (GITC).

Thomas also related that the GuySuCo Training Centre in Port Mourant would also be assisting with the training.

“We have consultants who have conducted a study to transition employees into farmers and under that we will be able to train the [ex] employees in different areas as it relates to agriculture,” Thomas noted, while adding that they are currently conducting surveys to determine what areas the retrenched workers are most interested in.

While the company has only received feedback from a few hundred employees about participation in the programmes, Thomas pointed out that it is open to all 4,000 workers that will be laid off come the new year.

“What we are doing also is we hope that the ladies being trained in sewing would be able to provide us with uniforms every year and so we are hoping that some of them, if they become professional enough, would be able to be contracted to provide some of those services,” she said, while pointing out that they would also be assisting the trained ex-workers with finding job opportunities within and outside of the sugar company.

They will also be working closely with the Small Business Bureau to try to develop some of the workers so that they are able to qualify for the small grants programme and eventually be able to start small businesses.

Moving forward, GuySuCo would be focusing on the development of three estates – Albion, Uitvlugt and Blairmont.

With respect to the Skeldon, Rose Hall, Wales and the East Demerara Estates, Thomas said that the Special Purpose Unit that was established by the Government is still currently inviting investors to submit Expressions of Interests (EOI) as it relates to their divestment and diversification.

Last week, more than a thousand workers from the East Demerara Estate received their letters of dismissal. While some of them have already received their severance pay, the rest will be distributed in January. Also last week, 2,000 Skeldon estate workers were given marching orders.

Workers and residents from Enmore had also related to Stabroek News that they expect a drastic slowdown in the community and are unsure of what their future holds.

The Wales estate was shuttered at the end of last year.

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