Claim that as many as 60% of former sugar workers continue to contribute to NIS seems far-fetched

Dear Editor,

The Stabroek News in an article titled `NIS pursuing GuySuCo for $250m’ which appeared in its August 07, 2018 edition quotes NIS General Manager, Ms Holly Greaves in relation to the jobless sugar workers as saying “A large number have re-registered as self-employed or have moved on to different companies. Around 60% of them are still contributing to the scheme”. For the GAWU, this is more than a surprising admission.

From our own interactions with the former, now jobless, sugar workers, many of them manage to eke out life by securing odd jobs usually lasting for just a few days. In such circumstances, more often than not, NIS deductions are not effected as it reduces the worker’s take home pay and also is more costly for the employer. This situation was confirmed by a report which appeared in the August 6 Stabroek News reported that in Vive-la-Force, West Bank Demerara one woman said that “[s]ince Wales close down, it hard out here, cause people ain’t buying anything, they just trying to get a lil hustle to take care of their family.” This is the scenario that plays out at many communities that are linked with the closed estates. We are, therefore, befuddled as to where it is that thousands of ex-sugar workers have either secured jobs or become business owners. Certainly, in our view, something is definitely amiss.

We do, however, accept that some workers have managed to secure formal jobs thus allowing them to continue their contributions to the NIS but they represent no more than a small minority of the thousands who have been put on the breadline following the closure of estates. In those circumstances, the claim that as many as 60 per cent of the now former sugar workers continue to contribute to the Scheme seems far-fetched to us.

It would be interesting to see the data that gives rise to the NIS’ admission. Of great importance would be the average income the now former sugar workers contributions are premised on visà-vis what obtained when they were employed by GuySuCo. Such an explanation, we believe, would be revealing and most telling and demonstrate where the workers really stand since their jobs were snatched away from them.

Yours faithfully,

Seepaul Narine

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