GAWU says talks of closing sugar estates ‘deeply disturbing’

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The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) on Wednesday said talks of closing the remaining sugar estates or laying off additional workers are “deeply disturbing.”

Following a report in the Stabroek News Wednesday, GAWU wrote a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Dr Harold Davis stating its concerns.

In the letter seen by the News Room, GAWU said: “the possibility that operations of the sugar industry may grind to a halt for thousands of workers and the tens of thousands who depend on the industry is deeply disturbing and only serves to raise anxieties at this time of difficulty at the national level.”

In a press statement, GAWU said it is concerned and alarmed at the possible developments and therefore needs to hear from the corporation.

GuySuCo in early June wrote a letter to the Government asking for a bailout in order to keep its operations afloat. It said it had money to take care of expenditures up to June 17.

The Ministry of Finance responded to say the treasury is incapable of doing so but promised that it was looking to access other funds to help the State entity.

The Ministry alluded to $1.5B which will be paid to the National Industrial Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) for lands belonging to the former sugar estates that were sold in early 2020, noting that part of the sum will go towards a bond repayment and the remainder to GuySuCo.

To date, GuySyuCo has not received that money.

According to GAWU, the staff who were to be paid earlier in June were only paid on Tuesday following the payment of sums owed for the sale of molasses.

“The apparent deliberate delay undoubtedly has pushed the Corporation to the precipice. The possibility that the thoughts have entered the minds of the industry’s leadership to close GuySuCo’s doors and gates only serves to add further anguish to the thousands of sugar workers,” GAWU said.

According to GAUW, with the economy already teetering, the distinct possibility that the sugar industry could face collapse can well plunge the country into a deeper crisis.

The News Room contacted the Public Relations Officer of GuySuCo, Audreyana Thomas who said she was in a meeting but promised to provide a response later in the day.

Some 10,000 workers are employed by the country’s three sugar estates.

Out of crop maintenance is currently ongoing. The second sugar crop is expected to begin this month.

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