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Reference is made to Seepaul Narine’s letter, “The trade union movement is built on solidarity” (Village Voice, 8th August 2021). This letter serves to advise Narine that I stand by my statement that the sugar workers have benefitted from a pension plan that has had the injection of money from the Consolidated Fund.
Under the Desmond Hoyte administration both sugar and bauxite were listed to be privatised. When the People’s Progressive Party/Civic came to office in 1992 the Cheddie Jagan government removed the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) from the privatisation programme but kept bauxite on. Both bauxite companies, GUYMINE and BERMINE, were privatised and their contributory pension fund subsequently folded up.
GuySuCo, which continued over the years as a state-owned company, has been receiving major subsidies from the Consolidated Fund to keep it operational. The pension fund for the workers at GuySuCo is contributory which means that the fund will only be operational so long as the employees and company exist.
The continued existence of GuySuCo is dependent on the direct transfers from the state’s coffers. Outside of that GuySuCo is bankrupt and will be closed. And when it closes there will be no employees and no company. As such the pension plan will go down with the closure of the company unless an alternative is found for the sustenance of the fund.
Let me make it very clear- I have never advocated for the closure of GuySuCo. I have repeatedly advocated that bauxite and sugar must be given the same consideration which the PPP/C government has consistently rejected through their own programmes.
There exists a serious concern about solidarity and who ought to be practicing it. Solidarity on matters relating to workers’ welfare I trifle not with or cherry pick. Whereas it is noticed that Narine sought to bring this issue up, he is being reminded that though the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU) remains appreciative of the solidarity given by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) during the workers struggle with the Bauxite Company Guyana Inc (BCGI) during 2015-2020, the matter remains unresolved.
Today Narine is being called on to show the same solidarity as given during 2015-2020 and implore upon the Irfaan Ali regime, of which he is a part, to resolve the 11-year-old grievance. The record will show that I have stood in solidarity with sugar workers and every other group when their welfare is threatened and regardless of which administration is in office. In the spirit of solidarity Narine is now called on to do likewise.