September 26, 2016

Int’l union wants Govt to immediately halt decision

The Wales Sugar Estate

The Wales Sugar Estate

Wales Estate closure

The Switzerland-based International Union of Food (IUF) is threatening to take action if Government fails to halt all plans to close the Wales Sugar Estate.

The Union, of which the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) are affiliates, wrote Agriculture Minister Noel Holder in this regard.

The Union urged the Guyana Government to “immediately halt plans to close the Wales Sugar estate,” while insisting that the Government, “as a matter of urgency to enter into full and good faith negotiations with GAWU and NAACIE to find a just solution which will maintain the estate and ensure employment.”

IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald

IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald

The Union said that it was with shock and disbelief that it received the plans of the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s to close the estate at the end of the year, especially with the absence of a socio-economic study.

The Union said that it has been working with the two local Unions for many years to improve the living and working conditions of workers in the sugar sector. It reminded of the dire impact the closure would have on the lives of the 1700 employed at Wales and their families.

“Sugar has historically played an important role in Guyana. It has been a crucial source of rural employment. Workers on the estate and the families who depend on them will surely be pushed into poverty by this cruel closure,” the Union stated.

As such, it warned that it will be monitoring the situation closely and is fully prepared to take further action to assist workers in the local sugar industry to maintain decent employing in this crucial sector.

The IUF had previously noted that it alerted its affiliates worldwide about the situation and called on them to support Guyana’s sugar workers in their time of need.

The IUF is the global trade union federation representing workers throughout the food chain. It comprises 416 affiliated unions, including GAWU and NAACIE, in 126 countries.

The Government has been under severe pressure to reverse its decision to close the Wales Sugar Estate at the end of the second crop of this year, plunging many of the workers there into a possible state of unemployment.

The Government in justifying its decision to close the factory claimed it was as a result of the estate not being financially viable and promised that no jobs will be lost.

But already, over 50 employees from Wales were sent packing.

The Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), several independent commentators, along with trade unions and rights groups, have all called on the Government to halt the closure plans and hold consultations with the workers affected.

However, those calls have fallen on deaf ears, leading to a series of protest actions involving workers as well as business owners and residents of Wales and its neighbouring communities.

Sugar workers across the country have declared their support for the workers at Wales.

The Wales Sugar Estate is one of the oldest in the country still functional but is operating at a huge loss so the relevant authorities opine it should be closed down. Plans are afoot to have these workers receive their benefits and severance pay, a source stated.

Guyana Times was told that in the phasing-out process, the canes at Wales will be transported via tractor/trailers – at tremendous costs – to the Uitvlugt Factory on West Coast Demerara.

It must be noted that the distance between the two factories is great. The old fashioned method of using punts to haul canes is not applicable since the Boerasiri conservancy does not have a direct link between the two estates.

This means the only way to transport canes would be via tractor/trailer which can carry a comparatively very limited amount per trip, thus proving to be a very costly venture.

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