Partnership needed to save sugar industry
– Govt appeals to sugar workers
The Government of Guyana urges all sugar workers and their unions to help in rescuing the industry, which for the first time in years, has reached and surpassed weekly targets.
The Government encourages sugar workers to remain committed to their jobs and, with the holiday season approaching, to earn as much as they can before the current crop comes to an end.
The Government finds as most disturbing the agitation, mainly by GAWU, for workers to engage in strike action. Such action could cripple operations and close down the sugar industry. This is especially alarming and regrettable now that efforts are being made to breathe life into the industry.
Government has been looking at all options to revive the industry, which was placed in a state of bankruptcy and almost total ruin by the former government.
It is critical that sugar workers know the following pertinent facts:
- Production slumped from 327,000 metric tonnes in the 1960s to an average of below 250,000 tonnes between 2008 and 2014
- Under the former regime, the sugar industry never came close to realizing the promised 500,000 tonnes target
- Between 2009 and 2015 GuySuCo not only failed to make a profit but suffered estimated total losses of $67.8 BILLION
- When the last administration left office, GuySuCo’s debt burden stood at $82 BILLION
It is therefore irrefutable that under that administration, GuySuCo had lost its way.
It is for this reason that the Coalition Government supported a Commission of Inquiry into the sugar industry. The interim report has confirmed the poor and declining state of GuySuCo as a result of political interference, poor management and squandermania.
TEN YEAR ROAD MAP AND ACTION PLAN
After a mere five months in office, the Coalition Government is seeking to put a Ten Year Road Map and Action Plan in place, aimed at returning the industry to viability.
It would therefore be ill advised and indeed premature to commence wages talks before this plan is considered. Unions that seek to drag the sugar corporation to the table to do so are obviously pursuing a political agenda which unfortunately is not in the interest of sugar workers.
The Government has, for the first time, allowed management to run GuySuCo independently and to make into a top priority a lasting solution to secure employment and also to make the industry profitable.
$82 BILLION DEBT LOAD
Due to its virtual insolvent status under the former regime, taxpayers were forced to dole out $28 BILLION in the last five years alone (2011 – 2015) to keep the sugar industry afloat. With its debt load of $82 BILLION and an expected $5 BILLION needed for capital investment together with anticipated further bailout in 2016, any strike action in the industry would bring sugar finally to its knees.
Government appeals for the understanding and the full cooperation of all sugar workers at this time of great peril to ensure that production targets continue to be met.
BAILOUT FOR 2015 MAXED OUT
The Coalition Government did not create the problems affecting the sugar industry. The blame ought to be placed elsewhere. It is government’s view that any industrial action at this time will place the industry into further jeopardy. Government is regrettably unable to increase the bailout package above the $12 BILLION for 2015 and strike action will not change this reality.
COI FINDINGS BEING ANALYSED
In the meantime Government is analysing the interim findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. GAWU as an integral part of the COI ought to know that industrial agitation is not an option at this time.
Government once again implores all sugar workers to steadfastly remain committed to the industry and to partner with management for its recovery.