Give dismissed sugar workers lands to earn livelihood – Ram tells Govt

first_imgAs thousands of retrenched workers, who were put on the breadline following Government’s downsizing of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), continue to struggle to earn a livelihood, calls have been reiterated for these workers to be given sugar lands to sustain themselves and their families.The most recent call was from social activist Christopher Ram last week as he addressed the opening of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana’s Sixth Triennial Conference. Ram told the gathering that the ConferenceSocial activist Christopher Ramwas being held against the backdrop of what he described as the “single largest layoff in the history of Guyana” in one of the major sectors of the economy.He went on to blast the coalition Administration as well as GuySuCo for not putting in place “mechanisms to cushion the financial, social, economic and personal impact and consequences on lives and livelihoods of these people”.To this end, Ram outlined several recommendations, which he believed are needed to ensure that the dismissed workers were able to adequately provide for themselves and their families.“Workers must be given lands to carry out the trade and earn their livelihood in the activity in which they are most proficient. The value to the Government of some privatisation proceeds in the short term is simply not worth the long-term effects of deprivation of some safety net to the workers,” Ram outlined.Among the other recommendations the social activist detailed were: the retraining and re-educating of workers; businesses being given incentives to employ workers; and direct and indirect contributions to the welfare of terminated GuySuCo employees, including scholarships to the children of the workers, should be made tax deductible, especially for businesses.Since Government’s announcement of the closure of several estates under GuySuCo, there have been widespread calls for the lands under GuySuCo to be distributed among the displaced workers in order for them to sustain themselves and their families.However, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon had said back in January that plans to lease sugar cane lands to the retrenched workers have been put on hold, pending the completion of ongoing valuation of the Corporation’s assets that was being carried out by United Kingdom-based PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC).Following Government’s announcement of plans to downsize the local sugar industry – leaving just the Uitvlugt, Albion and Blairmont Estates – in order to make it more viable, the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) was set up under the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) to manage the divestment of the Corporation’s assets. These include “all the moveable and immovable property owned, used, leased, or licensed by GuySuCo or the State, save and except for Albion Estate, Blairmont Estate, and Utivlugt Estate”. Also included in the takeover are all properties owned by, or leased to, the Skeldon, Rose Hall, Wales and Enmore Estates, and other properties in the Demerara and Berbice counties as well as 4700 acres of State land.In order to bring in revenue to sustain its operations, GuySuCo had, in 2016, sold to the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) some 3000 acres of cane land reportedly between Sophia, Greater Georgetown, and Ogle, East Coast Demerara. Government previously communicated its intention to use acres of land owned by GuySuCo for housing projects and other developments.However, at a meeting of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in February, it was revealed that the CH&PA paid over $1 billion for lands, but those lands have not yet been identified and handed over by GuySuCo.last_img

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