Jagdeo promises fired sugar workers monthly salary if voted back into office

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By Royan Abrams

During an outreach by members of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) in the East Canje Berbice communities on Saturday, December 16, 2017, Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo promised that once the PPP/C is re-elected to office, the sugar workers affected by the closure of the various estates will benefit from a monthly payment until alternative employment is available.

The former President made this revelation at a meeting in Canefield and Reliance, East Canje Berbice where he met with sugar workers and residents in those areas.

According to Jagdeo, the salary will be paid as an addition to the severance pay, which the sugar workers will receive.

A section of the gathering at the meeting

“When we take back office, I am making a pledge on behalf of the PPP that every single person who has been terminated, that outside of their severance, they will get support from the budget until we can find places for them, they will get monthly payments,” the Opposition Leader promised.

It was noted that in January 2018, the PPP will meet with the thousands of sugar workers in an effort to strategise on the way forward. The plan he says is to pressure the government to subsidise electricity and water for the affected workers.

Jagdeo told the gathering that the plan to close the sugar factories by the APNU+AFC government will now jeopardise Guyana’s sugar industry in the future.

“They’re just starting, this seems to be the first round and then will be other estates.”

Jagdeo expressed hope that the PPP is voted back into office before the government decides to “dismantle the other estates.”

During the meetings, several sugar workers complained about being unable to secure alternative employment.

President David Granger Friday said that that the government would ensure that the thousands of sugars being sent home at the end of the year get their severance pay.

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo

“As far as retrenchment benefits or the termination benefits are concerned, the government is responsible for ensuring that the Sugar Corporation fulfills its obligation to sugar workers,” Granger said at a press conference at the Ministry of the Presidency.

The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) will send home an estimated 3, 500 workers by the end of the year as part of plans to restructure the sugar industry. The decision represents the largest retrenchment by any corporation, public or private, in recent history.

The government had pledged to unveil a diversification plan to ensure continued employment for workers being sent home, but no major effort has materialised.

By the end of the year, estates at Rose Hall, Skeldon, Wales and Enmore would cease operations. Only three estates are being kept in operation – at Albion in East Berbice, Blairmont in West Berbice and Uitvlugt on the West Coast of Demerara.

Overall, sugar production is projected to decline to 152,000 tonnes by the end of the year, a 17.2 percent reduction compared to 2016‘s output. By 2020, GuySuCo aims to reduce sugar production to just three factories and with 10, 000 workers, which would be 6,000 less workers than it currently has.

The Corporation sees itself being able to produce 150, 000 tonnes of sugar annually in the next three years from the estates that would be kept in operation.

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