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Retrenched sugar workers must be consulted on basic necessities, reopening of estates – International Labour Organisation study

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 June 2021, 13:56 by Denis Chabrol

Retrenched workers from  the four sugar estates should be consulted on what could be done to satisfy their basic needs, an International Labour Organisation (ILO) study on the socio-economic impact of the closure of several estates four years ago has recommended.

“Quite apart from the fact that there was limited stakeholder involvement and consultation in the decision
to close the sugar estates, there is still a need for consultation with sugar workers, especially those who
were laid off, on what they require to sustain their livelihoods,” states the report that was  released on Thursday,

Produced by Dr.  Thomas B. Singh, Director of the University of Guyana GREEN Institute , the “Study of the socio-economic impact of the closure of GUYSUCO sugar estates on sugar workers in Guyana”,  states that not everyone wants to return to the sugar industry because they have taken up jobs elsewhere.

Dr. Singh recommended that government should go a step further and conduct a “comprehensive survey and scenario analysis of the needs and expectations of sugar workers affected by the closure of the sugar estates.”

The ILO study says such an exercise  will help government to learn of opportunities to provide skills training where that is needed, as well as get a sense of the number of workers that are willing to return to the sugar industry, and at what wages.

Such a survey, the study says, will be extremely useful as the Government proceeds with its plans to re-open closed sugar estates. “The base  on which this re-opening should stand and on which activities are maintained is that the livelihoods that will depend on the revitalized industry must be sustainable, and must be able to withstand any major
shock that might arise in the future,” the document also states.

The ILO study says there will be need to assist affected workers and their families to avoid potential, if not real, poverty traps. According to the findings, the  closure of the four estates, each of which was the backbone of the local economies that grew up around them, entailed a significant  reduction in income.

“The closure was also so disruptive on those economies that the households of many of the affected workers could have been driven into poverty traps, the emergence from which would require more than just the reopening of estates and the re-creation of employment opportunities,” the study states.

More than 7,000 persons had been laid off from the Skeldon, Rose Hall-Canje, East Demerara and Wales sugar estates, although a Commission of Inquiry had not recommended that action.

Since coming to power in  August 2020, the People’s Progressive Party Civic administration had been gradually reopening those estates, except for Wales which has been earmarked for a gas to shore energy facility and industrial park.

However, the opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) has been accusing the government of wasting money on a loss-making entity purely motivated by politics rather than economics.