…Min Holder says several sugar workers absorbed into public sector
…govt’s action prevented 9000 from being laid-off
GOVERNMENT has been able to save thousands of jobs in the sugar industry through a process of assimilation into the public sector, Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder has said.
He said some 9000 workers could have been laid off, but government through several interventions was able to reduce that figure to around 4000. Minister Holder made the comments recently when he engaged members of the Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce (CCCC) during a meeting held in Mibicuri, Region Six.
Minister Holder pointed out that the decision to restructure the sugar corporation was discussed in Parliament and with GuySuCo’s management and workers prior to the issuing of redundancy letters. In addition, he said 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 that 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) 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 number of redundant workers was also restricted with amalgamation and transfers among the sugar estates. “Half of Rose Hall 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 Rose Hall 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 Inquiry 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 U.S. 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 and Pacific (ACP) countries by the European Union (EU).
“We found that Skeldon was producing at U.S. 60 cents per pound and selling at U.S. 15 cents; Albion producing at U.S. 20 to 25 cents and selling at U.S. 15 cents; Rose Hall producing at U.S. 45 cents a pound, selling at U.S. 15 cents; Blairmont producing around U.S. 22 cents, selling at U.S. 15 cents; Wales producing around U.S. 55 cents, selling at U.S. 15 cents; Uitvlugt producing around U.S. 30 cents, selling at U.S. 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 from an alternative livelihoods 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.(DPI)