“We don’t think that the labour situation will become better. In fact, our successes in some ways, the fact now that almost all of our young people have access not only to primary education but to secondary education and to tertiary education more of our children are looking for other types of jobs,” he told the annual Enmore Martyrs commemoration ceremony held at a monument in honour of the five sugar workers at that East Coast Demerara village.
Revealing statistics, he said that at Uitvlugt Estate, the turnout by workers was estimated at 43 percent and little more than 60 percent across the industry
The President said that already the cane fields at Enmore and Skeldon are being re-aligned to make them “more machine-friendly”. Machines include loaders and harvesters.
Government has also in the past noted that a lot of sugar workers have been shifting to more lucrative jobs in the gold mining and construction sectors.
Ramotar urged sugar workers and their Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) to focus on the larger good of rescuing the industry rather than the short-term gain of wage increases. “I ask myself anf I ask my friends many, many times –is fighting for more wage increases the only way to defend the interest of the working class?
Can’t we see that by saving the industry and bringing it back it back to vitality is maybe the most important service that we can do to the working class,” he said.
Observers have noted that wages and salaries account for more than 60 percent of the corporation’s revenue.
He said workers must appreciate the non-wage benefits like health and education
With a new Board of Directors for Guysuco expected to be announced within another month, the Guyanese leader publicly invited GAWU President, Komal Chand to the directorate “to help manage the industry and to see for themselves if the management is trying to short-change the workers.”
President Ramotar partly attributed the decline of Guysuco to rainy weather that has seen the average number of opportunity days (sunny weather) dwindle from 120 days in 2004 to 80 days currently.
He appealed to workers to make sacrifices because the sugar industry’s problems were not due to poor management or bad workers but because of a change in the trade sector. He cited the European Union’s decision to cut the price it pays for sugar by 36 percent in 2010.