Govt’s actions prevented even more layoffs at GuySuCo – Min. Holder

DPI, Guyana, Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder recently told members of the Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce (CCCC) that the government’s responsible actions prevented the layoff of even more Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) employees.

Noel Holder, Minister of Agriculture during the Mibikuri outreach in Black Bush Polder, Berbice.

The Agriculture Minister was at the time responding to accusations of CCCC, Mohamed Raffik during a meeting held in Mibikuri, Region Six.

Minister Holder pointed out that the decision to restructure the sugar corporation was discussed in Parliament and with GuySyCo’s management and workers were held, prior to the issuance of redundancy letters. In addition, steps were taken to minimise the number of workers to be made redundant.

“It is not suddenly getting up one morning and sending 4000 employees home. That didn’t happen that’s a misrepresentation of the facts. As a matter of fact, if you look at what happened at the beginning of the year that figure could have been closer to 9000,” Minister Holder said.

He further explained, the number of employees laid off was further reduced through a process of assimilation into the public sector.

“The National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) has taken on a responsibility for all the drainage GuySuCo is handling and the staff that goes along with that. The (GuySuCo’s) community centres were handed over to the Ministry of Communities and they absorbed the staff involved in that, the health centres were taken over by the Ministry of Public Health and the staff involved in that. These are things that were done,”  the Minister underscored.

He noted that the numbers of redundant workers were also restricted with amalgamation and transfers among the sugar estates.

“Half of Rosehall has gone to Albion, a good part of Wales has gone to Uitvlugt and employees have been transferred or absorbed into the bigger cultivations. So, a good part of Rosehall people are now working at Albion and Blairmont … so the government has acted responsibly,” Holder explained.

In addition, the Agriculture Minister observed that on assumption of office in May 2015, the government was unaware of the extent of the debt facing the sugar entity. A Commission of Enquiry found all of the corporation’s earnings were being spent on wages and salaries, a situation which could not be sustained by government bailouts.

“When the government came to power in May 2015, it didn’t realise the extent to which GuySuCo was in trouble. Guysuco was being bailed out by the previous administration for years. We had to find, in the first six months, $16B just to keep GuySuCo going, paying wages and salaries.”

The Minister said the findings from the inquiry also revealed that GuySuCo employees were among the highest paid in the country with their wages averaging about $200,000 per month. “But all the money that GuySuCo is earning, about $90B US per year, was not sufficient to pay the wages and salaries they were short by over $1B Guyana to meet that requirement.”

Further, he said the decision to restructure GuySuCo stems from several factors, including the financial challenges presented by high production costs and low world market prices following the removal of preferential sugar prices to African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) countries by the European Union (EU).

“We found that Skeldon was producing at US 60 cents per pound and selling at US 15 cents; Albion producing at US 20 to 25 cents and selling at US 15 cents; Rosehall producing at US  45 cents a pound, selling at US 15 cents; Blairmont producing around US 22 cents, selling at US 15 cents; Wales producing around US 55 cents, selling at US 15 cents; Uitvlugt producing around US 30 cents, selling at US 15 cents. So, the government immediately saw it had to rationalise,” Minister Holder outlined.

Meanwhile, the government has given assurances that the hundreds of workers made redundant at the end of December 2017 will receive their severance pay by the end of January 2018, also they will benefit an alternative livelihood programme being facilitated by the corporation.

Forging ahead with training for employees who have been made redundant at its estates, with support from the Small Business Bureau, the sugar corporation has since trained some 47 workers from Enmore Estate in Catering and Sewing.
By: Kidackie Amsterdam

 

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