The insensitivity to the sugar workers of Guyana started since slavery and continues even today in 2018. One example of this insensitivity to the worker’s plight was the comment from the then Commissioner of Labour, a Scotsman Mr. William Bissell, who in describing the change over from the cut and drop system to the cut and load system said “so far as the cane cutters are concerned, the additional work involved was simply carrying the bundles of cane a few yards further to drop it into the punt instead of on the parapet”. But how patently false that was. The realities in the fields are very different. A cane cutter is paid by the amount of weighted cane he cuts; the less he cuts the less he earns. The change over from the cut and drop system to the cut and load system entails moving cane manually in possibly water-logged conditions. Additionally, the punt is not always readily available and that counts as idle time with no pay.
What we saw at Wales, Enmore, Skeldon and Rose Hall exemplified insensitivity as an incompetent troika (Minister Noel Holder /Chairman Clive Thomas / CEO Errol Hanoman) muddled the entire transition process in the sugar belt. There is nothing else to explain the closure of Enmore in 2017 only to observe that it had to be re-opened in less than a month after the troika of incompetent (Holder / Thomas / Hanoman) were separated from their respective roles in the sugar industry.
I am advised that full credit for the separations must go to Minister Joseph Harmon who was the architect behind the re-opening of the Enmore Sugar Estate. I was also told he was the one who had to put his foot down to get rid of the troika of incompetence from the sugar industry in spite of their collective fightback internally.
I have spoken privately to a member of the leadership of GAWU and that person advised me that they think Mr. Colvin Heath-London is someone they think they can do business with since he appears to have a better understanding of the burning issues in the sugar belt compared to his predecessors. Well isn’t that good news in an industry that had so much bad news since Raj Singh arrived under the PPP? I am told that collectively these four men were nothing else but dogmatic ideologues stuck in the last century on the sugar issues. It is also reassuring to know that DDL is seriously interested in managing the assets of Enmore Estate for the production of molasses.
It is hoped that in 2018 and beyond that good sense will prevail and that GuySuCo will finally achieve some level of stability, but the sugar unions must keep their guard up and stay alert because repairing this damage to the industry will require careful analysis, the right finance and people in the right place at the right time and competent decision making.