GuySuCo and government need to work out a compensation scheme for laid-off sugar workers

Dear Editor,

After reading my own letter published in your column on December 6, within the context of the unfolding news of sugar workers being sent home, I could not stop tears coming to my eyes as I remembered my own sojourn with unemployment in Guyana for about three years after I left the central bank. My sympathies rest with the sugar workers as I know and understand the difficulties they and their families might be facing. We only keep reading about these sugar workers being sent home, but we are not hearing anything about any financial arrangements to provide support for them and their families for the next year or so at the very least.

If we roughly estimate that every sugar worker supports a family, by my best guess, in excess of 3,000 families have been affected by these lay-offs since the coalition took office.  Again, if one assumes at least one child per family, at least 3,000 children’s lives have been upset by these lay-offs. I submit that this is unconscionable, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.

I and a number of individuals have already submitted proposals for a national unemployment insurance benefits scheme. Although implementing this to address sugar workers’ immediate problems might be impractical, I strongly suggest that before GuySuCo lays off any more workers, its management and government should sit down to work out an appropriate compensation scheme as an immediate interim measure, if this is not already being done.  Consideration should be made of the fact that sugar workers have been financially exploited over the decades.  Financial provision should be made for at least one year, and I would like to propose a monthly financial package of at least $90,000 for a family of four. This should apply to all sugar workers released by GuySuCo since 2015, at the very least.

Finally, the corporation and government should establish a committee aimed at addressing sugar workers’ long term welfare immediately, if this is not already done. It is unthinkable and unconscionable for any government, or any company, to release a single worker without some financial provision for his welfare needs in the near term. This is especially so at this time of  year when we normally reach out a bit more to each other.

Yours faithfully,

Craig Sylvester

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