Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo said Monday that the government has decided to extend the 7 per cent retroactive increase given to public servants to sugar workers.
He made this disclosure after meeting with the Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha; Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Sasenarine Singh; and the General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU), Aslim Singh and GAWU’s Assistant General Secretary/Treasurer, Porandatt Narine, to inform them about the government’s decision.
“In the five years [under APNU+AFC], there was no wages or salary increase for sugar workers, and apart from that, the annual production incentive had also been terminated.”
The Vice President said he had promised that whatever the public servants receive, the sugar workers would get.
Welcoming the increase, the sugar company’s CEO said it will inject funds into rural Demerara and Berbice in a significant way, doing well to enhance the morale in the industry. He explained that this was especially pertinent this year, because they experienced the worst flood in the sugar belt for 40 years, impacting the self-esteem in the industry.
GAWU’s General Secretary commended the Vice President for recognising the need of the sugar workers, as their cost of living escalated tremendously. He said the money will help to improve workers’ standard of living.
Dr. Jagdeo also discussed the $250,000 one-off payment for severed sugar workers. He said it was a way to alleviate some of the issues they had faced due to their unemployment, describing it as “almost reparative justice” for what was done to them.
The government is looking at proposals to return the estates to viability, Dr. Jagdeo also revealed. Part of the effort involves merging the estates with other communities.
“The key idea was to ensure that we first of all create alternative employment for people in areas where we could not return to sugar, that APNU had closed the estates.”
The Vice President reminded journalists of the government’s work to establish an industrial zone at Wales. He had told residents that the new developments would create more jobs for them than were lost when the Coalition closed the sugar estates. Dr. Jagdeo said government has already seen many former GuySuCo workers absorbed into the new activities in Region Three.
“At Enmore, we’re doing the same thing. We’re working on a couple of industrial estates for the East Coast and a large private development that we’re partnering with to absorb people who have lost employment on the East Coast.”
He said the situation is different in Berbice; that the government has had to return to sugar there because it is more difficult to get investments into Berbice.
“Going purely after sugar, it would mean a longer-term return to viability. If we can merge sugar with other economic activities on these estates, which we’re trying to do, then we can achieve overall viability faster.”
The government intends to examine options for additional action in the new year.