Workers/citizens have to hold the politicians accountable for lying to them, taking them for granted, and treating their business with contempt. Bharrat Jagdeo’s statement that should the PPP/C win office in 2020 laid-off sugar workers will be paid a stipend must be questioned. When the workers of Diamond Estate were laid off during his presidency they did not receive one cent in stipends.
In fact, for the laid-off Diamond workers to receive their redundancy benefit they had to go to the court. It was only after this matter was before the court the Jagdeo government sat with the sugar unions and settled the issue of redundancy pay. If the Jagdeo government initially refused to respect redundancy benefits, which are supposed to be paid under the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act, how in heavens name will a Jagdeo/PPP government of 2020 ever pay a stipend when no law prescribes such.
In all the talks about the state of the industry, its future and that of the workers, Jagdeo has failed to come up with a plan to put in the public domain that the APNU+AFC government, sugar workers, their unions, other stakeholders and society could examine. Instead, sugar workers are being told pie-in-the-sky stories not in order to improve their lot, but to improve Jagdeo/PPP’s chances at the next elections.
Sugar workers must demand from Mr Jagdeo a plan to resuscitate the industry, making it viable, in order that their jobs can be protected. It is time the trade union and society hold him accountable for his statements on the industry and for the promises being made to sugar workers. Equally the APNU+AFC government must be held accountable for their actions in the industry, whether or not they are feasible. The focus on this industry must not only be driven by profit and loss, but by the socio-economic welfare of the workers and their communities that must be given equal consideration.