GAWU has been in forefront of seeking changes which would make sugar viable

Dear Editor,

The GAWU recognized that Mr Earl John in a letter appearing in the April 6, Stabroek News responded to some aspects of the contentions our union raised in its letter that appeared in the April 5, Stabroek News and Kaieteur News and the April 6, Guyana Chronicle. Mr John it seems is upset, for whatever reason, by our union’s consistent defence of the sugar workers who have been treated in a most disdainful manner in recent times.

While Mr John contends that our union is in a “dated box”, we wonder whether the author misspoke, or is conveniently forgetful. Our union has been in the forefront representing changes to move the sugar industry away from its current configuration to one which is more realistic and viable. Our suggestions on this score have also been shared by many individuals and organisations, including GuySuCo of which he was a senior executive. It is difficult then to see how we are dated. Nevertheless, we saw from GuySuCo, under its previous leadership, moves to take the corporation down the same failed path of other crops diversification. It is as clear as day to see those who stand in the “dated box” as Mr John puts it.

The letter writer then urges the union to pursue “…appropriate strategies to bring balance back to workers’ lives”. But this is what we are doing, and have been doing, as we represent the re-opening of the estates identified for closure by the past GuySuCo leaders, and press that workers’ rights be respected. Separately it is generally known, unless one lives under a rock, we went as far as engaging the administration and sharing with them our views on what could be done to make workers’ lives a bit easier.

On the question of the health services provided by the sugar industry, we urge the writer to re-read, carefully, our letter, as we never had any claim to fame that the health services were granted during our presence in the sugar industry. We simply contend that those health services, like so many other things workers enjoy today, came not out of the benevolence of the owner-class but through the reality of the workers’ struggle, which is clearly inscribed in the history of this country.

Mr John then speaks about the implication of providing health services on GuySuCo’s cost of production. The Sugar CoI which the author has referred to on several previous occasions, at page 42, advised that the corporation’s health care costs totalled $300M in 2014. That sum is less than half of what went to the corporation’s big boys at the top echelon, who number just a few, in 2016.

We must admit that we agree with Mr John when he said we must move “…onto a pitch that we can practise playing forward as a team”. Whilst our union always embraced and showed a strong desire to move in that direction, it is indeed unfortunate such lofty goals could not have been realized when he was at the helm. Nevertheless, we look forward to moving in this direction, belated as it may be.

Yours faithfully,

Seepaul Narine

General Secretary

GAWU

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