How can GAWU want to sustain the sugar industry and not sustain Uitvlugt?

Dear Editor,

The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Inc would like to respond to the letter that was published in the Stabroek News on 24 March, 2017 and titled ‘Injustices to sugar workers are being perpetrated anew,’ penned by Mr Seepaul Narine, General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU). In the letter Mr Narine was essentially focusing on what he claims was “the company’s (GuySuCo’s) wrong decision to deny some 300 workers from Wales estate their rightful severance entitlement”.

He continued that “we strongly contend that the corporation’s intention is to unilaterally, and contrary to the laws of the land, transfer the 300-odd workers to Uitvlugt thus frustrating them and bringing on conditions that are not conducive for them to continue to work. In such circumstances, GuySuCo can very well seek to deny them their payments for their years of service rendered”.

The corporation wishes to appeal to GAWU on behalf of the workers and in the interest of the sustainability the industry as a whole, to provide advice to the workers that would see them securing continuous employment to sustain their livelihoods. Quite apart from the corporation, these workers have a responsibility to their families and communities.

The corporation is in fact more interested in the future welfare of its employees and their families. In offering the cane harvesters and cane transport operators from Wales Estate  continued employment, they will retain their benefits and be better able to sustain the future of their children.

Some of the benefits include medical services for their spouses and children under 18 years, particularly in emergencies; access to financial assistance through the corporation’s Bursary Award Programme; opportunity for their children to be selected to become an Apprentice at the GuySuCo Training School/Port Mourant, among others. Further, the income they earn will also contribute to the community in which they reside.

The Uitvlugt Estate has a severe labour shortage and needs these employees to assist in harvesting. The immediate reality is that the turnout at Uitvlugt Estate for the crop so far, is as follows:

The implications of this low attendance is that canes are not being harvested in a timely manner, the factory cannot operate continuously and if the corporation does not produce sugar then revenue will not be earned. It is ironic that GAWU is talking about sustainability, but the corporation has to earn revenue in order to be sustainable.

Despite the precarious position of the corporation, GAWU has narrowed this matter down to one of mere severance payment for 300 plus employees from Wales Estate, disregarding the need at Uitvlugt Estate. However, it is important to note that a greater problem could be imminent if the labour crisis at the Uitvlugt Estate is not addressed and arrested immediately. The estate simply cannot survive with an average harvesters’ turnout of between 41 and 56 per cent.

In the light of the above, the obvious choice for the corporation is to transfer its employees, in this case the cane harvesters and cane transport operators, where the need for labour is great and as a part of its strategy to sustain the Uitvlugt Estate and to maintain some degree of stability in its business.

The Uitvlugt Estate gives support to communities from Cornelia Ida to Boeraserie in West Demerara. It  provides community services such as employment and business opportunities for residents in West Demerara; drainage ‒ these villages are also directly drained by the sluices that are maintained by the estate; fresh water is provided for

agricultural usage; emergency services  such as, ambulance  and fire tender services are provided to the communities; recreational and sporting facilities and programmes are provided and maintained; and primary health care is available to families as well as pensioners and their families in addition to other support services for our pensioners.

The corporation is therefore appealing to GAWU to seriously help us to keep Uitvlugt Estate open and to support its expansion and upgrading programme, so that it can continue to provide the economic, social and other opportunities for these communities.

The corporation extends an invitation to its employees, in particular the cane harvesters and transport operators of Wales Estate, not only to reflect seriously on their own and their families’ future, but also on the process, how they can contribute to the economic health of their neighbours and  the community as a whole.

The question to be asked of the union is, how can they insist on the corporation maintaining the industry, while on the other hand argue that its workers should not sustain Uitvlugt Estate?

Yours faithfully,

Audreyanna Thomas

Senior Communications Officer

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