The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) on Tuesday rejected suggestions by government that the Wales and Uitvlugt sugar factories be merged.
“We are opposed to the closure of any factory,” GAWU President, Komal Chand told Demerara Waves Online News.
Chand said such a move result in closure of the Wales Estate and increased operational costs by private cane farmers to transport cane to Uitvlugt for the manufacture of the sweetener. “They need to do a proper study because Wales facilitates scores of small farmers and they will not be able to transport their canes so far; the cost on them will be too much,” he said.
The GAWU boss noted that small cane farmers are responsible for the production of half the amount of sugar canes being produced at Wales. Chand reiterated that the success of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) was partly tied to the re-acquisition of the Skeldon co-generation plant and the sale of electricity to Guyana Power and Light at market rates, increased production of value-added sugar by Blairmont and the production of packaged sugars by the Enmore Packaging plant.
At Wales, less than 50 workers down tools early Tuesday morning and refused to enter the factory compound while numerous of their colleagues disembarked trucks and reported for duty. A union representative said if Wales estate is closed at least 350 workers would be on the breadline. He ruled out the feasibility of rotating workers between the two factories. “No, you can’t rotate the system. This is a 24-hour system and when you talk about rotating, you will be killing people here. People wouldn’t earn what they are supposed to get,” said Gordon Thomas.
Workers at Wales plan to call out their colleagues from other estates to picket outside Parliament Building when the National Assembly meets again later this week.
Already, the likely merger of Wales and Uitvlugt factory operations at West Demerara appeared to be evoking political sentiments by sugar workers. APNU party, Ramjattan and Nagamootoo and Harmon and Granger- they can’t run this country. Dem nah know nut’n ‘bout sugar.. Wah dem chap intend fuh duh wid dis country? Cripple de workers dem in this country?,” said a worker.
The worker recalled that Guysuco had previously considered transporting cane from Wales to Uitvlugt on the Boerasirie Conservancy but calculations had shown that it would have been very expensive to do so.
Fellow sugar worker, Sultan Hussain, echoed similar concerns. “We are surprised at this government, just after six months, fuh close estate areddee. We nah know wah guh hap’n. People around hay nah gah no bizniss fuh pe’pl fuh depend upon. We nah geh no wage increase, now yuh guh tel we yuh guh close estate right away. This is na right,” said Hussain, a mill turbine operator.
Hussain said the West Coast and West Bank Demerara roads would deteriorate by heavy duty trucks transporting canes from Wales to Uitvlugt and Guysuco would have to spend more on the operation of bell-loaders. He recommended that government pump monies into Wales to help it boost production and if it fails in two years close it.
Government intends to table in the National Assembly a report by a Commission of Inquiry into the sugar industry.