Ex-sugar workers on Wednesday challenged government ministers to take a tour of sugar industry-dependent villages to see the effects of mass layoffs.
The call was made by over a dozen laid off sugar workers from around the country when they gathered at the Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU) headquarters.
According to the workers, who also called for the government to reopen the sugar estates that have been closed, they have been finding it increasingly difficult to find jobs in their respective areas and they expect more hardship if nothing changes.
“I would like the government ministers to come and walk around these villages. Spend some time in these areas and sit with the people. Come in the community, feel the feels the people are feeling. Don’t come pon the TV and come talk nonsense about God want this and God want that. Come and sit with the people and feel where it hurts the most. See where it hurts the most [and] then you will realise what is going on,” Glen McCloud, an ex-sugar worker of the Rose Hall Estate said.
McCloud made a plea to all the government ministers to shy away from thinking along political lines and to think about the workers and their families, who are currently suffering due to the closure of the estates and the layoff of over 4,000 workers.
“See when you come and tell we this and tell me that and jump in your fancy vehicle and gone is that. Out of sight, out of mind. But when you come and sit and talk to the people, you will feel it. Don’t come and tell the people what they want to hear. This is peoples’ lives at stake, this is peoples’ children’s lives at stake. We just asking them to come and see and have a feeling where it hurts most,” McCloud added, while stating that nothing hurts more than being unable to provide his children with all of their necessities.
Despite the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) initiating an Alternative Livelihood Programme, which caters for the retraining of some of the workers who were made redundant, the workers said the only way they can be helped is if the estates are reopened or if the government finds jobs for them.
“They should really consider and let the estates open back. In Berbice area, there’s no wuk. Right now, it got some store in New Amsterdam [and] if six persons working, three of them gon work the first half and three the second half. Is over 900 of we get redundant. Where they gon place we?” Gledon Grant, of East Canje, said.
He noted that every morning he sits outside of his house and he has noticed that the amount of school children going to school is decreasing. This, he suggested, is as a result of residents of the area not having money to send their children to school regularly.
“People can’t afford to invest it [severance], they have to secure it and save it. We have children going to school and we cannot invest it. I living in a rural area and I am personally frustrated. Every morning I wake up and I don’t know what to do. My money is in the bank and I have to keep it to live. Up to yesterday I went til to Rosignol to look for a job and I ain’t get any. Is 21 years I working at the estate. You can’t deprive people of their livelihood like that. The government has to take into consideration the negative impact on people life…,” Grant said, almost in tears, said.
The Private Sector Com-mission (PSC) hosted a job fair at Patentia, West Bank Demerara last month and despite there being some 800 plus vacancies, the workers explained that none of the openings suited them.
“We not seeing jobs… They [PSC] went ‘round by me side but the subject we have to get some of we don’t. All we know for long is cutting cane and we don’t have them three CXC subjects that they want. We didn’t study for them things and the majority of us are not what they asking for,” one of the ex-workers from Wales, who was present at the job fair, related.
The workers said that they are making another plea to the President David Granger and the other relevant government ministers to rethink the decision to close the sugar estates, which they believe can still be reversed.