Jagdeo says ‘means’ available to give sugar workers salary

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Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday accused the Government of being “disingenuous” in saying that it is the Board of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) that should make a decision on paying sugar workers a salary increase.

GuySuCo now has an estimated workforce of 10,000 persons at the three sugar estates that have been left standing – at Albion and Blairmont in Berbice and Uitvlugt, West Coast Demerara. The last time the workers received a salary increase was in 2014.

Jagdeo said that funds from the $30 billion bond that was secured to recapitalise the three estates or funds from the sale of the estates that were closed, could be used to meet the salary increase.

“It is just that they don’t want to give sugar workers an increase in salaries,” Jagdeo said at a press conference at his Church Street, Georgetown Office.

He said the Government cannot now claim it is up to the Board to decide on the salary increases when it is the Government that decides how the industry functions, including closing four sugar estates, securing the bond, and transferring GuySuCo’s assets to NICIL.

NICIL functions as the Government’s asset-holding and investment arm.

Jagdeo said the use of the bond and the funds from the sale of assets appears to be a “black hole” with no clear indication of how the funds are being spent.

Recently, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan, who has responsibility for NICIL, said any possibility of a pay increase for sugar workers must be dealt with by the Board of GuySuCo.

“The sugar workers come under a Corporation that has a Board and they will have to deal with the realities of the Corporation,” Jordan told reporters on November 20.

The union which represents workers, GAWU, made clear that the Board is appointed by the Government and therefore, as a creature of the Administration, it will be guided, obviously, by the instructions and guidance of the Government.

“Rather than seeking to right the wrong and to bring justice to the sugar workers they have found a scapegoat in the GuySuCo Board which they had a hand in appointing.

“It’s an unconvincing excuse…,” Seepaul Narine, General Secretary of the GAWU stated in a letter to the press recently.

But Jordan defended the Government’s position.

“It (GuySuCo) has to commercially run and profitably engaged,” Jordan stated.

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