Govt will ensure work is found for sugar workers – Pres Ali
…equipment procured to get Uitvlugt Estate up and running
Out-of-work sugar workers who were attached to the Uitvlugt Sugar Estate have been assured by the Government that work would be found for them and that every effort was being made to get the estate operational.
This assurance was given by President Dr Irfaan Ali, during a meeting with hundreds of Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) workers at the Uitvlugt Community Centre on the West Coast of Demerara (WCD) on Friday.
Not only has the estate’s grinding operations been affected for a number of weeks, but its factory has also been grappling with issues affecting its equipment. The President was nevertheless able to organise temporary employment for out-of-work cane harvesters of the Uitvlugt Estate.
During the meeting, the President announced that the estate would find alternative work for six days per week on a short-term basis for the sugar workers. According to him, the Government wants to see the sugar workers, like all other Guyanese, succeed.
“Having listened to management, I am convinced that there’s enough work for planting, weeding, chemical spraying, cleaning of the side-line to get you at least six days per week now, and I’ve instructed that this be implemented immediately.
“You have a government who understands your pain; you have a government who is committed to working with you and helping you. As we said when we came back, we are here to ensure that the sugar sector succeeds and ensure that we keep employment and not displace employment,” President Ali said.
The President further explained that while the estate was trying its utmost to resume grinding on a normal level, it continued to be plagued by issues with its gear. To remedy this, he said the Government has procured another piece of equipment that would be delivered in July. In the meantime, he explained that they were working on finding a factory in Miami, Florida, that has similar facilities.
At the meeting, President Ali also spoke of overall support for the workers. He said that plans were being formulated to register the workers to be part of a livelihood improvement programme to supplement their estate jobs. One of the options is the establishment of chicken farming facilities, where he said workers could take part in poultry farming with approximately 150-200 birds.
“We are going to try to get the resources so that you don’t stay without work, you get the six days per week, and at the same time, we are going to work with you to support you with the livelihood option,” President Ali said, adding that he would consult with the Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh to see what further help could be provided.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Deodat Indar was also at Friday’s meeting.
During a tour of the Uitvlugt Estate in January, Shift Manager Lochan Deokaran had said that over at the “punt dumper” area, there were plans to install a new cane washing system. With the current setup, he had said that extraneous matter was entering the factory – an issue they’re trying to remedy. The new washer would improve steam and power production while reducing unplanned operation stoppages.
“The canes would enter with a lot of extraneous matter, including mud, sand and other obstacles. We really needed a new cane washing system here to avoid some of this extraneous matter from entering our factory, to aid in proper milling and steam generation to supply power…When this extraneous matter enters into the system, it creates problems both in the mechanical and processing side,” the Shift Manager had highlighted.
Another issue which had posed some threat at the time was the dire state of the boiler chimney, which was leaning towards the factory. This had limited steam production and posed an overall health and safety hazard for workers.
The downsizing of the sugar industry by the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration saw only the Uitvlugt, Blairmont and Albion Estates being in operation. The assets of the closed estates were put under the control of the Special Purpose Unit of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) for divestment. Uitvlugt is the only functional factory in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara).
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government last year laid a supplemental paper in the National Assembly, which among other things, sought $4 billion for urgent works on the sugar estates that would return GuySuCo to profitability.
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha had said that the PPP/C Government inherited dilapidated and neglected estates from the former Government, a far cry from the estates the APNU/AFC inherited in 2015.