Sugar workers continue protest against closure of Estates

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Hundreds of citizens including sugar workers and their families turned out to protest the impending closure of the Rose Hall Estate and its impact on their livelihoods.

On Monday, hundreds of sugar workers joined by housewives, business persons and students, took part in a march from the vicinity of Rose Hall Estate to the Sheet Anchor Turn and back to the Estate.

The citizens are protesting the closure of the Rose Hall Estate and others by the end of 2018.

The Government’s plans for sugar have triggered off a spate of protests in the sugar belt as workers.

According to the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) which represents a majority of Sugar workers, the Rose Hall Estate, employs some 2,300 workers.

It noted that work in the sugar estate is the main avenue of employment in these areas, as has been the case for generations now.

As such, GAWU said the closure would surely leave a vacuum that will not only gravely impact workers but also force businesses and service providers to curtail or end operations.

During the march, the protestors carried placards including “Upturn the decision to close Rose Hall Estate”, “We would be sunk into poverty after closure”, “APNU/AFC Govt betray sugar workers”, and “Closure of RH Estate is a political act”.

The protestors were addressed by, among others, GAWU General Secretary, Seepaul Narine; GAWU Vice President, Harvey Tambron, and three (3) sugar workers.

The speakers condemned the plan for the closure which they visualised would bring grave suffering. They encouraged those present to continue to put up a fight and called on the Administration to listen to the cries of people and abandon their shortsighted plans for sugar.

The people, the Union says are fearful that the closure of the Estate will bring about increased incidences of crime and other social problems.

They are urging the Administration to re-look at their plans.

Workers at the Albion Estate also stood in solidarity with their colleagues of Skeldon, Rose Hall and Enmore/LBI Estates.

On Monday, May 08, 2017 in the National Assembly, Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder said the Enmore and Rose Hall Estates will be closed by the end of 2017. Holder said the proposal is that Skeldon also be divested in the thrust to ensure that the sector only consists of three estates.

The factories to be retained are Albion, Blaimont and Uitvlugt, and the government proposes that sugar production be contracted to approximately 147,000 tonnes of sugar annually to satisfy the demand in the local markets (25,000 tonnes pa), CARICOM and regional (50,000 – 60,000 tonnes pa) USA (12,500 tonnes pa) and the World Market (50,000) tonnes.  Focus would be on producing for direct consumption, value-added sugars and providing electricity to the national grid (co-generation).

The government now invites expression of interest for diversification and said pending diversification, a series of actions are to be taken to reduce the financial burden of the corporation.

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