“Special initiative” for 7000 sugar workers fired by APNU/AFC – Jagdeo
…to meet with them soon
The Guyana Government is expected to implement a special initiative in the near future that focuses on bringing benefits to the thousands of ex-sugar workers who were dismissed under the APNU/AFC regime.
Some 7000-plus sugar workers were placed on the breadline after the APNU/AFC Administration downsized the industry and shut down four estates across the country. Many of those workers have not been able to secure permanent jobs and remain on the breadline years later.
However, the PPP/C, during the 2020 election campaign trail, had promised to reopen those estates and rehire those sacked workers.
During a recent interview with a social media commentator, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo pointed out that Government has not forgotten this promise. In fact, Jagdeo disclosed that he will soon be meeting with those former sugar workers on this.
“We remember our pre-election promise and soon, I’ll be meeting with [the ex-sugar workers]. There is a special initiative that we’re working on for the 7000 workers who were laid off. Soon I’ll be meeting with them to explain more about this initiative… We intend to fulfil our promises,” the Vice President indicated.
Several efforts to contact various Government officials including Jagdeo for additional information on this special initiative were futile.
Back in 2016, the former APNU/AFC closed the Wales Estate, and the following year, shut down the Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon Estates, putting over 7000 sugar workers on the breadline. The downsizing of the sugar industry resulted in only the Uitvlugt, Blairmont and Albion Estates in operation.
However, since the PPP/C Administration assumed office in August 2020, they have been putting systems in place to reopen the Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon Estates. Due to the deteriorating state of the Wales factory, that estate will be converted into the Wales Development Authority – an industrial facility that will see the development of not only agriculture but agro-industries, processing facilities, manufacturing and other sectors to drive economic activities.
Additionally, Government, through the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has already moved to rehire over 700 sugar workers.
Back in December 2020, the Agriculture Minister clapped back at naysayers as he made it clear that the PPP/C Administration is committed to rehiring at least 5000 of the sacked sugar workers.
“Our Government is cognisant of the fact that many livelihoods and communities are dependent on this industry. We are aware that the entire community are built around sugar. We heard your cry when hope seemed lost, when there was no work and loss of income… that is why the reopening of these estates is important…. more than 5000 sugar workers will be rehired,” the Minister had said at the time.
Meanwhile, in fulfilment of its promise to reopen the closed estates and return the sugar industry to a viable state, since taking office last year, the Dr Irfaan Ali-led Administration has injected some $9 billion dollars into the sugar industry – $7 billion from the 2020 Emergency Budget to recapitalise the sugar industry and another $2 billion in the 2021 budget for critical capital works at the sugar corporation.
A further $1.5 billion in supplementary funding was also approved in the National Assembly last month for the restructuring of GuySuCo.
Minister Mustapha had told the National Assembly that so far, 40 per cent of the works to restructure GuySuCo has been completed. He also revealed that there is a plan for the overall sugar sector which is currently being fine-tuned.
According to the Agriculture Minister, GuySuCo is examining the plan right now and GuySuCo, which he noted has enough money to fulfil its financial obligations, will continue progressing on the path to recovery it has been set on.
“There is a plan. The plan is being fine-tuned now. The Board is looking at that. And very shortly they should give a me a copy of that and I will (provide it). GuySuCo has money to pay its current bills and we will continue to pursue value added to increase the profitability of GuySuCo. We have seen a lil turnaround with GuySuCo and GuySuCo is now moving in a positive direction, unlike before last year August,” Mustapha said.
In fact, Chief Executive Officer of GuySuCo, Sasenarine Singh during an interview with <<<Guyana Times>>> just over a week ago, explained and with the sugar company is in a better financial standing, it has paid off almost $900 million in debt to its urgent trade creditors and unions.
“GuySuCo has different kinds of debts. It has urgent debts. And urgent debts are those debts that if we don’t pay, the whole operation grinds to a halt. Like BACIF, Brass Aluminium Cast Iron Foundry, the people who make bearings and cast-iron parts for the estate,” Singh explained.
He added, “If they withdraw their services from GuySuCo, then GuySuCo is in trouble. So that kind of urgent debt is about $1 billion. That is now reduced to about $750 million. Now while we’ve paid $700 million down, it’s a combination of everything.”
Included in the amounts GuySuCo has paid down over the past nine months is money owed to the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) – the Union representing sugar workers, and the National insurance Scheme (NIS).