GAWU disturbed by GPSU comments on sugar workers payments

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Dear Editor
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has noted in the April 28, 2021 Stabroek News comments attributed to GPSU President, Mr Patrick Yarde regarding the recent agreement between the GAWU and GuySuCo regarding payments owing to workers since 2019. The newspaper reported Mr Yarde as saying that the “…government recently responded to protests from workers in the sugar sector by making available $200 million yet refuses to make a similar consideration for public sector workers.”  If the comments are accurately captured it appears that either Mr Yarde is confused or is engaged in deliberate mischief making.

For the sake of clarity, the payments approved relate to retroactive payments owing to the workers since 2019. Our Union has long been championing that workers were entitled to the payments though the former Government and former GuySuCo officials clearly turned a blind eye to the situation. It is one of the many ‘messes’ the new Government has inherited and had to address. We hope this clears the air on the matter.

The Stabroek News also quoted the Union’s Vice President, Ms Dawn Gardener as saying “…there is a well-orchestrated plan to suffocate workers in the Public Sector and by extension their families. Such acts are inhumane and cruel”. This of course is yet another bout of misinformation. It appears Ms Gardener forgot that all State workers were equally treated when they received a bonus at the end of 2020. We fail to see where this well-orchestrated plan, as Ms Gardener puts it, was being advanced. Clearly it may be a figment of one’s imagination.

We also recognised her talk of ‘inhumane and cruel’. If Ms Gardener wants to talk about ‘inhumane and cruel’ she should talk about when sugar workers received absolutely no pay improvement during the Coalition’s term in office. Wasn’t that suffocation? Or was it not ‘cruel and inhumane’ when sugar workers had their benefits suspended without rhyme or reason. Certainly, it was ‘inhumane and cruel’ when thousands of sugar workers were pushed onto the breadline when estates were closed without any consideration of the consequences and the then Government withheld their severance payments. At no time, did Ms Gardener and her Union chose to lend their voices. Maybe their voices were stilled or had no concern about the plight of the sugar workers. Whatever was the case the sugar workers were not daunted though disappointed that many today who choose to criticize them had not even the scantest of concerns when they faced wanton and naked discrimination.

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The GAWU recognizes a seeming swipe to convey that sugar workers and the industry do not contribute to the industry’s well-being. We wish to remind that sugar workers contribute positively to the nation even though the industry faces challenges. The fact that homes of many Guyanese, public servants included, are not inundated when it rains heavily is because of the efforts of sugar workers whose sweat ensures that a large section of Guyana is drained. Similarly, it is the sugar industry which still earns valuable foreign exchange for the nation and it is the sugar industry that sustains entire stretches of communities in rural Guyana. While some can choose to ignore those realities, it is a reality that is very much real.

Our Union will continue to stand in defence of sugar workers and all workers. We recognize the efforts of public servants but do not subscribe to those who seek to magnify issues seemingly for their own narrow intentions. Like the public servants, we believe that all workers deserve an increase. We do not think this is lost on the Government which itself has said it will address this matter at an appropriate time. Certainly it appears a lot of hullabaloo is being unnecessarily created.

Regards
Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU)



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