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  • Sugar protests getting under GuySuCo’s skin – GAWU

    first_imgGeneral Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Seepaul Narine, on Thursday condemned the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) for what he feels is an attempt to “denigrate” the union’s “unrelenting and principled stance” in defending the rights of thousands of sugar workers.GAWU General Secretary, Seepaul NarineThe sugar workers, their families and other stakeholders have been protesting Government’s move to discontinue operations at several sugar estates, as confirmed in this year’s State Paper on the industry’s future.GuySuCo Senior Communications Officer, Audreyanna Thomas, had earlier this week penned a letter in the press which noted that the sugar corporation is seeking those sugar workers who were “misled”. However, GAWU indicated that Thomas’s letter was just another “public relations stunt” that discredits the union defending the many cross-sections of workers who stand to be affected by what the union termed as “ill-conceived plans” that GuySuCo advocated for the sugar industry.One of the many protests GAWU organised in Berbice“From the Corporation’s letter, it seems that the Union-organised protests at several estates are getting under the not-too-thick skin of the Corporation and its handlers. Our most recent activity at Albion attracted an appreciable turnout and demonstrates the disagreement, shared not only by workers and their families, (but by) the wider communities,” the union official stated in a lengthy release issued on Thursday.Some 375 Wales workers have been out of employment at GuySuCo for the last several months. They contend that they cannot be compelled to travel 22 miles from Wales, West Bank Demerara to Uitvlugt on the West Coast of Demerara. On that ground they have demanded severance payment, but the Corporation contends that all workers who opted for severance had already been paid. This matter is slated to come up in the High Court.“GuySuCo says it will demand very soon a “higher level” of service from GAWU. But such a call is best suited to GuySuCo. Our Union nevertheless is supportive of all plans which will secure the sugar industry. But at the same time cannot lend a supporting voice to plans which will wreck lives and imperil entire communities, as we have seen playing out at Wales,” Narine pointedly expressed.The GAWU General Secretary further highlighted the uncertainties of the diversification plans the sugar corporation has, plans which Agriculture Minister Noel Holder had announced last year.Narine went on to explain that up until now, no worker was given any land to capitalize on the supposed diversification plans. He noted that GuySuCo, like a “wolf in sheep’s clothing, goes on to speak to provision of transportation and medical services to the workers and their families and pensioners.Is the company expecting the agriculture workers to join public transportation from their home at 05:00 am and travel to the cultivation some 5 to 10 miles in rugged off-road terrain?” he questioned.Narine also reiterated that, in the main, GAWU strikes are related to price disputes. He noted that sugar workers have encountered two years of no pay increases; were “shortchanged” on API in 2015, and were given no API in 2016; and that there was arbitrary cutting down of workers’ benefits.“We take serious and utmost umbrage with GuySuCo’s view that the GAWU is engaged in sabotage. This is completely unfounded and a figment of someone’s imagination. Moreover, the Corporation also seems to question the wisdom of the workers’ protest actions. But wouldn’t any rational person whose livelihood is threatened take a similar approach? Ms Thomas and her colleagues ensconced in the comforts of GuySuCo hierarchy would sing a different tune had the shoe been on the other foot,” the GAWU General Secretary stressed.Finance Minister Winston Jordan, in his presentation of the 2017 Budget, had indicated that the status quo at the sugar industry could neither be sustained nor maintained. He had explained that, based on the CoI, it was concluded that any money injected into the sugar industry in its current state was money wasted.last_img read more