Redundant sugar workers to receive 50 percent of severance on January 30

DPI, Guyana, Friday, January 12, 2018

Minister of State Joseph Harmon, today at a post-Cabinet press conference, announced that on January 30, 2018, all redundant sugar workers will be paid 50 percent of their severance and by the second half of the year the other 50 percent will be paid.

Minister Harmon reiterated Government’s commitment, noting that it recognises the importance of sugar workers and their families and will continue to do what’s best in the interest of the citizens.

The Minister reminded of President David Granger’s recent statement on the matter, where he made it clear that “In addition to severances, he [President David Granger] pointed to several other programmes that the Government will support to help the workers to adjust to this new economic reality.”

Amidst criticisms, he clarified, that the sugar industry is being ‘right-sized’, since to date some $32B and counting is being expended to an industry that is no longer financially viable.

He noted that “the Government could no longer allow a situation like that to continue, and has stepped in for the affected sugar workers so that their entitlement under the law can be effected.”

On a monthly basis, the Government has been investing $1B in the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to manage the recurring issues. “Even while in the opposition, it was clear to us that the constant applications of GuySuCo to the government for bailout sums, was something that we needed to address”, Minister Harmon said.

When this administration took office, the State Minister recalled, the decision was taken to address the matter in a systematic manner. Reference was made to the efforts by the Government, such as the Commission of Inquiry, the setting up of the Special Purpose Unit and the laying of the State Paper and other extensive steps towards engagement, regarding the future of the sector.

He took a swipe at the Opposition who continue to criticize the Government for the decision to further downsize. He reminded that the previous regime never provided a plan, even after this Administration extended the offer for both sides to meet to discuss what can be done to address the problems in the ailing industry.

“The Government said this is our proposal. This is what we propose to do about the situation and we are asking the other stakeholders at the table here, to produce your plan and let us work together in the interest of this country, in the interest of the industry, to ensure that we have something that is workable”, he stated.

Minister Harmon informed that plans were presented by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE), but the Opposition never presented one.

Instead, he noted that the call was made for an Impact Assessment Study to be conducted. “What I am saying, you had the industry for 20 years. You must have understood what the impact was …and you are waiting now until we are in office to ask us to do an Impact Assessment Study when there were strict timelines in which certain things were to be done.:”

In spite of all the “noise and chatter” the Minister said a plan of action is not being provided, however, he said the Government is still prepared to engage the Opposition and all other stakeholders, importantly, the Unions, on the future of the industry.

The $2B set aside by the Government to pay former employees of GuySuCo will be allocated on a calculative basis and will serve each worker based on their years of service to the sugar corporation and salary.

By: Stacy Carmichael

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