The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) yesterday convened a Business, Financial and Investment Forum in a bid to provide recently laid-off sugar workers with options to use their severance payments wisely.
The forum was held at the Enmore Community Centre yesterday morning and saw contributions from the business community, including the Private Sector Commission, the Small Business Bureau, the Guyana Stock Exchange, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, insurance companies, commercial banks and the Institute of Private Enterprise Development.
GuySuCo’s Corporate Communications Manager Audreyanna Thomas told Stabroek News that the forum allowed persons to see the “human face” of GuySuCo. “Yes, as a business we found ourselves in a situation where we had to lay off four thousand employees and that’s a difficult situation and we are not happy to have done that. However, the Sustainable Communities [Programme] and Alternative Livelihood Initiative is our response to try to do two things: counteract the shock from the redundancy and to absorb some of it from the ex-employees, their families and the communities,” Thomas said.
She pointed out that the forum, which will also be replicated in Wales, Rose Hall and Skeldon next month, was aimed at assisting the workers with investing and spending their severance payments wisely.
“We appreciate it because what it does is that some persons are not necessarily earning a salary at this point and we didn’t want them to just collect a severance and then two weeks later they would not have invested it wisely or spent it wisely. At least we can say we provided the opportunity to them on how to spend it wisely,” she said.
Thomas explained that from the sugar company’s perspective, the forum was successful, since there was equal participation from the business community and the ex-workers. While most of the workers related to this newspaper that they thought the meeting was “excellent” and provided them with vital information, others stated that they were of the opinion that it was not going to help them much and that they want jobs instead.
“The meeting was excellent. I am really interested in all the things that they have here and it gave me and, from what I’m hearing, other workers, too, some courage that we can keep on trusting in GuySuCo,” Lyndon (only name given), an ex-worker said.
Another ex-worker, Gildharie Watt, who said he gave the sugar industry 31 years of service, added that he liked the meeting but noted that GuySuCo would be able to better help the laid-off workers if it could provide jobs.
“Even if you get a loan to open a business, they don’t have a market for it. Same thing happen to the sugar. I walk through Regent Street the other day and it used to be hard but you could walk easy, easy now,” he said.
“They telling we about the retraining programme but I is more than 50. Even if I retrain, who gon’ want to employ me? Me spend me whole life at GuySuCo. That is all me know for so long. When people get a job every month and they know they getting a salary, they gon spend. But even if I get a loan and start a business that is no guarantee that we getting money,” Watt said.
The forum was attended by hundreds of ex-workers and featured booths where the banks and other stakeholders provided information to the workers pertaining to loans and grants and other opportunities.