BROOKLYN, NY – The Guyana Agriculture Workers Union (GAWU) says. At the same time, it welcomes the announcement by the Government that more than 7,000 former sugar workers will soon be benefitting from a GUY$250,000 (One Guyana dollar=US 0.004 cents) grant; it believes that the funding should be extended to all sugar workers who are also “equally deserving.”
Vice-President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday announced that sugar workers who were severed under the former coalition administration would each receive at least by the end of January next year, regardless of their employment status.
He also announced that a new facility would be developed in Berbice early next year to provide temporary employment to those in need while training will be offered to Berbicians to clear the way for them to secure jobs in the oil and gas industry.
Jagdeo that the new Government had noted the devastation which the closure of the Rose Hall and Skeldon estates triggered, adding that it caused sugar workers to be unable to sustain their lives and even feed their families, forcing them to turn to handouts.
But in a statement, GAWU said that workers who were made jobless following the closure of other sugar estates had been faced with many hardships, as pointed out in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) study on the impact of the estate closure.
It also said that the decline of the standard-of-living that sugar workers faced, coupled with successive years of no pay increase, the arbitrary withdrawal of benefits, and “a seeming policy to punish the industry,” have also taken “a significant toll on the workers.
“The support by the Government is welcomed and seeks to correct the injustice and indignation the workers and their families confronted following the callous minimization of the sugar industry.
“The GAWU must point out too that while heartened about the support to the severed workers, we cannot ignore the plight of those sugar workers who were retained but punished severely by the former Administration.
“We believe they too are equally as deserving, and we urge the Government to consider extending its support to all sugar workers. We believe it will help to alleviate the many burdens the workers had to contend with during the term of the Coalition in office,” GAWU added.
The union said it intends to engage the Government on reported plans for the shuttered estates, to develop a better understanding to convey to workers seeking guidance.