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Four Weeks later and no job for cane planters at GuySuCo Enmore/LBI Estates

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Written by Mark Murray

Over 75 cane planters of Enmore and LBI Estates are reporting that for the last four weeks, they are being denied work by the GuySuCo. Some of the workers made the claim during a press conference at the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) on Tuesday (April 4, 2017).

They expressed dissatisfaction with the directive given by the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo) that they must engage in cane cutting tasks.

Cane Planer, Myron Cummings explained that they “were taken on as planters specifically. We (cane planters) were transferred, forced to go over to Enmore after the closure of LBI and they said to us that they have work available for us…now to our surprise the job has become redundant and here we are fighting for our family, fighting for survive and fighting to let our voice be heard.”

“We want to know what else we could do cause this gonna be going into the fourth week now we in this struggle,” questioned another Cane Planter.

With a frustrated look on his face, Leon Mobutu told members of the media that “when we (Cane Planters) are not planting cane we have alternative work like when the cane finish cutting, cleaning up the field etc.”

Mr. Mobutu further clarified that “that GuySuCo is forcing” them to became sugarcane harvesters as he is sticking to the position that they “are NOT cane cutters,” but they were told by GuySuCo that it is the only job available until “if they decide to plant back.”

The Union representing the Cane Planters said that the two tasks are significantly different and cane-cutting assignments are not among the usual tasks which the planters are given whenever they are not required to plant canes.

According to GAWU’s General Secretary Seepaul Narine, on March 27, 2017, the body forwarded a letter to the Minister of Agriculture about the concerns of the cane planters.

He said to date, the Minister is yet to acknowledge or respond to the letter. This was also brought to the attention of the Labour Department which did not bear much fruit either.

“There seem to be something that is hidden in this whole equation whereby GuySuCo is saying particularly at the Enmore estate and coincidentally at Rose Hall, but the Rose Hall people they are being offered other work. There is no planting going on at Rose Hall. All of this coincides with the announcement that the two estates will be closed at the end of this year. So, not planting now is setting the stage of not having a crop to be harvested next year,” said GAWU General Secretary.

The Union Representative said the current posture of GuySuCo is a matter of urgent importance given that workers are being affected.

He feels “procedurally we (GAWU/Members) are trying to talk, we are trying to find an answer. We stand willing to meet with them (GuySuCo/Minister Noel) at any time but they are not cooperating. It is our intention that the Minister will see the wisdom of protecting his portfolio and to intervene and have a resolution.”

“We are also concerned and it appears as if only one language these people understand, the language of protest, the language of fight back and that is not good for this nation, it is not good for the industry, its not good for the workers but if it is that is all they understand then we will have to be engaged in that kind of protest,” cautioned Mr. Narine.

GAWU is of the view that the sugar industry can overcome its difficulties and become viable once more, with the present workforce but only with a capable management and supportive Government.

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