With 4,000 GuySuCo employees already in receipt of layoff letters, President David Granger on Friday assured that they will get their severance pay and said that the sugar industry is not closing.
“As far as retrenchment benefits or the termination benefits are concerned, the government is responsible for ensuring that the Sugar Corporation fulfils its obligation to the workers,” Granger told a press conference at the Ministry of the Presidency.
Next year’s budget has a $6B allocation for GuySuCo while the severance to workers is estimated at some $5B.
In a statement he read at the press conference, he said that the sugar industry was not closing and that government was looking at ways of making it viable by creating mega estates of the three they are keeping.
“The sugar industry is not shutting down, it is being consolidated and we hope to have three mega estates; one in East Berbice, one in West Berbice and one in West Demerara, and we want to make those three mega estates viable and profitable…The government is pursuing every option and every opportunity to ensure it is a viable industry, mindful of its impact on the rural economy and of course the rural population,” he added.
Asked why a transition plan was not in put in place for the workers that would be retrenched this year, Granger said that there were many factors.
He said that in the context of the sugar industry, there are four major institutions to be considered. These are GuySuCo, government which has the Ministry of Agriculture as its representative and is reporting on the issue, the workers and their unions and civil society.
“As far as the plan is concerned there needs to be a lot more work by the fourth agency which I can call the SPU (Special Purpose Unit – which comes under the Ministry of Finance- and that is the agency that will be responsible for ensuring the smooth transition for those parts of the industry which would not be remaining in production under the Guyana Sugar Corporation,” he said.
“I would say that the work of the SPU is still being done. They are in negotiation with foreign investors and I expect that before too long we will have a plan which will explain in detail how the lands will be disposed of,” he added.
Sources have told Stabroek News that potential investors understand that if they purchase the estate assets they are being sold as going concerns where GuySuCo would not be forced to halt its operations and liquidate its assets. Instead if there were a sugar crop still being grown it would mature and be reaped and processed as per norm.
The Special Purpose Unit had planned to collect from GuySuCo the list of persons that were terminated so that some of them would have been re-employed by the SPU to keep the factories going.
Instead, GuySuCo issued some 4,000 letters and is in the process of dispatching more.
The Corporation’s Public Relations Officer, Audreyanna Thomas, told Stabroek News that while GuySuCo can confirm that 4,000 letters had been sent out as at Thursday of last week, they still do not have a breakdown of numbers for which estates the letters were sent.
One government source said that the SPU would now have to rehire to plant a crop
“They will have to get money to do some planting in the fields to show investors that the sector is viable, that the factories are working and so on”, the source said.
“It is unclear if after that process what the new buyers will do as it pertains to employees and if the SPU will recommend that some of the workers be further kept on,” the source added