GAWU tells ‘sugar belt’ workers to brace for no salary today
…flood-prone coastal villages now under threat, no money for fuel at pump stations
Thousands of employees across the sugar belt are being told by their union representatives that the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) is without funds to make good on payment of wages and salaries for this month, expected to be paid on June 26 (today).
This is according to the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), which in a public statement on Thursday warned that the situation is compounded by the fact that the corporation has in fact ceased production and that sales from sugar and molasses have also come to an end.
GAWU additionally warned on Thursday that sources in the Government-owned holding company National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) are still to make available to the sugar corporation any of the promised support.
According to GAWU, this has led to a state of affairs where “the state-owned company will exhaust its remaining funds by this week-end.”
As such, according to GAWU, “…monthly-paid employees of the Company, who were to be paid on June 26, 2020, will not receive their salaries, as there are insufficient resources to offset the payment.”
GAWU said, “Persons in the GuySuCo, we have learnt, are very anxious at this time, considering production has halted and incomes from the sales of sugar and molasses have ceased.”
The sugar workers’ representative said in its missive that it has since been indicated that if “NICIL does not release any monies soon, the company will be forced to close its doors.”
Additionally, GAWU reiterated that with several more weeks before the second crop commences, the industry requires about $1 billion to meet wages and salaries’ expenditures, while additional monies are required to meet other operational expenses.
The union noted also that “there are some worries that in the absence of sufficient funds, the Corporation may not be able to purchase sufficient fuel to operate its pumping stations.”
The union body has since posited that should reality be borne out, “We could see several villages being flooded, should the rainy season persist.”
GAWU said, too, “We have learnt that the Corporation is seeking the assistance of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) to avert such disaster.”
The workers’ representative union has since articulated in its public statement that GAWU, “like GuySuCo, is hopeful that this matter could be addressed soonest, and the worse could be averted.”
According to GAWU, “We remain most concerned about the heartless treatment of the sugar industry by the now de-facto Administration.”
The workers’ body is adamant that “thousands of lives hang in the balance and the need for urgent intervention is needed” and that “such assistance is denied, arising from the naked attempts to thwart the will of the people and prevent the installation of a legitimate Government.”
Only recently, the union, in lambasting the administration’s economic machinations at the Ministry of Finance juxtaposed with the affairs at GuySuCo, had called on the caretaker President to account for the more than $330 million spent daily by the Government in recent months; a situation that has since depleted the national reserves.
The union’s position had come a day after the Ministry of Finance reported that Guyana’s national treasury is presently “incapable of providing a bailout” to the Corporation, and the Corporation should seek to work out its bottlenecks, since any monies due from the sale of sugar lands still would not be for the industry directly, but rather to make repayments for a bond that was secured.
It was reported that during an eight-month period between July 2018 and February 2020, $9.7 billion was disbursed to GuySuCo to fund its Capital and Operational Expenditure – much of which was outside the terms of the bond.
The Ministry said too that additionally, NICIL, through the Special Purpose Unit (SPU), had sold lands that were vested to it, and garnered deposits of $2.1 billion. This money, however, was used to offset bond payments that became due in May 2020, the Ministry said, adding that the balance of $1.5 billion for the lands will be paid over to NICIL when the vesting orders are signed and gazetted.
The balance, however, is not expected to make its way to the Corporation in its entirety, since according to the Ministry, part of this sum will go towards a bond repayment which is due on July 4, and the remainder to GuySuCo.
It was noted too that another disbursement is expected in the coming days; and as such, the Government had urged “that NICIL, GuySuCo and the syndicated lenders work assiduously to resolve any bottlenecks”.