Combat Voice of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU)
The confused approach to the sugar sector The Coalition Government’s approach to the sugar industry has become symptomatic of its wider approach to governance and direction of the State. Almost immediately after its election to office, nearly three (3) years ago, it abandoned its commitments to the people of Guyana, especially the people of the sugar belt, to safeguard, protect and revitalize the sugar industry, which had been ailing for some years but showing signs of a resurgence. The Government, so far, has not convincingly shared its rationale for moving away from the goalpost it set itself, though it has been contended by quite a few that politics, and not economic, guided its decision-making. Indeed, it is saddening that though the Administration was given, seemingly on a platter, a road map to bring the industry back to a firmer footing through the Sugar Commission of Inquiry (CoI), it went on, just weeks after the report was presented, and decided to close the century old Wales Estate at the end of 2016. That closure attracted widespread condemnation from the workers and their organisations, the political opposition, and several other voices. Nonetheless, the Administration turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the expressed concerns, and proceeded to close Wales, arguing that it would move into the production of non-sugar crop though GuySuCo’s previous adventure in this area was a massive, costly failure. At the end of its all, 1,700 workers lost their jobs and the plans for non-sugar diversification hardly ever got off the ground. Today, the communities of Wales are a ghost of their previous past, and the people are facing difficulty-filled lives. Well aware of the Wales realities, the Government went ahead and closed three (3) estates – Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara – at the end of 2017, and sent home some 5,000 workers. The massive dismissal exercise evoked a maelstrom of criticism from several quarters of society. In the face of these criticisms, we saw, as usual, a bungled response from the Administration, with one Minister saying the Government wasn’t aware, and another saying that the Cabinet was aware of the intention for about two (2) years. Around the same time, the Government had set up the Sugar Special Purpose Unit (SPU) under the auspices of the state holding company, the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), which was charged with the divestment of Skeldon Estate. The SPU, somewhat unsurprisingly, discovered that the estates identified for closure were not unviable as Government and GuySuCo officials had claimed, and argued as the rationale for their closure. Continued on page two (2) COMBAT 01 March - 12 May, 2018
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First crop nearing its end
As at week ending April 28, 2018, sugar production for the first sugar crop stood at 30,278 tonnes sugar, with Albion and Blairmont Estates still in operation. The GuySuCo, from its production schedule, had estimated that the crop would have ended at that point with 33,618 tonnes sugar being produced. However, a delay of the crop forced an extension. Uitvlugt Estate concluded its crop on week ending April 20, 2018, producing 7,071 tonnes sugar, exceeding its target of 6,671 tonnes by 400 tonnes. It is pleasing that the estate managed to surpass its target, but that notwithstanding, Uitvlugt’s first crop production in 2017 was 7,045 tonnes sugar. Regarding GuySuCo’s two (2) other operable estates, as at week ending April
28, 2018, Albion Estate produced 15,390 tonnes and Blairmont’s production stood at 7,817 tonnes, deficits of 4,308 tonnes and 1,919 tonnes respectively. Moreover, Albion’s production has been bolstered, in some respect, by canes harvested from the Providence section of the now-closed Rose Hall Estates. Those canes were not factored when Albion’s production target was set. The two (2) estates produced 18,326 tonnes and 9,065 tonnes sugar respectively during the 2017 first crop. Should Albion and Blairmont realize their first crop targets of 19,698 tonnes and 9,736 tonnes respectively, then it would represent a marginal improvement of those estates’ output when compared with their output during the 2017 first crop.
Improved conditions for BBCI workers
Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Christmas Day, Eid-Ul-Adha and Phagwah. All other holidays will attract time-and-a-half-pay. The Union, in keeping with the grievance procedure, had approached the Company on the matter. However, the BBCI, notwithstanding GAWU’s representation, did not agree to implement the Union’s proposal. The GAWU next pursued the matter at the level of the Department of Labour, which agreed with the Union’s representation and recommended that the BBCI agree to the payment to the employees concerned. After some time, the BBCI agreed to implement the payment. The parties inked an agreeGAWU President, Cde Komal Chand, receiving a copy of the signed agreement ment on May 04, 2018, formalising from Chief Labour Officer Cde Charles Ogle. Also pictured is GAWU General the new conditions of work, and the Secretary Cde Seepaul Narine new benefit was implemented retroFollowing persistent representation by the GAWU, actively from April 01, 2018. and with the assistance of the Department of Labour The BBCI operates the 1.5-mile Berbice Bridge, which of the Ministry of Social Protection, the Berbice Bridge was opened in 2008, linking East and West Berbice. Company Inc (BBCI) has approved overtime payment GAWU became the bargaining agent on behalf of the to its shift employees, who are engaged mainly in the Company’s 40-person workforce in 2009. Through toll booths, whenever they work on national holidays. GAWU’s representation, the workers have benefitted While the parties are to formally append an agreement, from improvements in pay and payment of certain althe Company has agreed to pay double pay on Labour lowances, among other things. PAGE ONE
Sinking economic fortunes
The Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, recently announced that Guyana’s economy grew by only 2.1 per cent in 2017, a far way from the goal of 3.8 per cent. It is the lowest growth rate in recent times. Notably, the economy expanded by 3.8 per cent in 2014; by 3.2 per cent in 2015, and by 3.4 per cent in 2016. Certainly, without any changes to our economic management, we can soon find ourselves in negative territory. The Minister, in seeking to explain his level of success or failure, explained that poor performances in the sugar, bauxite and gold sectors were largely responsible for the dismal performance of the economy. The miserable showing in the gold sector is of the Government’s own doing, because it has imposed a heavier tax burden in the industry, some of which were recently dialled back. Like in gold, the Government’s handling of the sugar industry is responsible for the 137,370 tonnes sugar output in 2017, the lowest production since 1990. The installation of an IMC in GuySuCo in June, 2015, which from all appearances hadn’t the industry’s health and well-being at heart, was the first step to the disastrous situation the sugar company finds itself in today. In the short but certainly destructive period, apart from the massive decline in sugar production, which was countered by substantial injections from the Treasury, the IMC pauperized and alienated the industry’s most important asset – its workers. We also saw the expansive bureaucracy, incidentally staffed by personnel who had probably outlived their usefulness. The substantial expansion at the top ballooned the cost of management, and workers were told there was nothing for the; and in that vein, several hard won benefits were forcibly taken away. In that time, we saw advanced the plans to shutter sugar estates, without any creditable rhyme or reason. The arguments that those estates were unviable quickly lost their entire lustre, and in fact crediCOMBAT
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bility, when GAWU, among others, pointed out the real workable avenues that can be pursued to secure those estates and the industry as a whole. Dismayingly, the GuySuCo and the Government remained unmoved, until public outcry and criticism together with the workers’ activism forced a change of course. Several persons have argued that the Government’s policy was seemingly to malign the industry, whose workers and dependents are seen as non-supportive of the Administration. If this is in fact the case, it is not only distasteful, but is purely irresponsible governance, and is without a doubt an unpatriotic act. Now faced with the economy heading to the doldrums, if not already there, and very little more to tax with the exception of the air we breathe, the Government has resorted to liquidating the country’s gold reserves, which fell from some $15B in June, 2015 to just under $2B in February, 2018. At the same time, foreign exchange reserves have fallen by over US$100M (G$20B) over the last two (2) years. With a reduction of foreign exchange receipts as a result of lower exports from a minimized sugar industry, which may not be able to realize its set targets; a borderline profit rice industry which may see an exodus of farmers as a result of higher land rentals and drainage cost; a ban on greenheart to the UK, which is certain to have serious implications for the forestry sector; and, more recently, a ban of catfish to the United States, which had been steadily growing and which provided sustenance for thousands of Guyanese, the economy, from all appearances, is quickly heading down a slippery slope. The Administration has limited options in this scenario, and has decided to go down the path of borrowing. It’s almost like déjà vu when, in the 1970s and 1980s, the Government then engaged in massive borrowing, so that by the time the 1990s dawned, Guyana’s external debt amounted to US$2B and over 90 per cent of revenues went to debt servicing. Diligent
work to rebuild and expand the economy, along with strong representation for debt write offs, saw a vastly changed situation, and by the time of the mid-2000s debt servicing, was less than 10 per cent of revenues and overall debt represented 60 per cent of GDP. It was an inspiring reversal of fortunes, and a very proud achievement for all Guyanese. It was therefore of great concern that, almost inconsequentially, the Administration announced it was seeking to borrow, if it has not yet secured, some US$900M for projects in several areas. Those projects, which are still to be properly put to the drawing board, will see Guyana’s external debt roughly doubling, and therefore demanding increased revenues
to service debts. It therefore means that Guyanese should brace themselves for new taxes or reduced services or both, as Government will have to find ways and means to pay for the monies it has now borrowed or will soon borrow. While some may argue that oil revenues will be able to offset the new debt contracted and that may be true, given the demands, more so the promises made - would the oil revenue really be as impactful as it is being made out to be? Time will ultimately tell, but what is clear is our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be made to pay, one way or another.
Continued from page one (1) The Unit, coupled with the workers’ strong opposition to closure and the unyielding criticism being placed at the Administration’s doorstep, caused the Government to change direction. On December 29, 2017, surreptitiously, it transferred the assets of Skeldon, Rose Hall, East Demerara and Wales to the SPU for divestment, and at the same time, the shares of GuySuCo were placed in the hands of NICIL. With the changes, the Government announced that it was embarking on several reforms to GuySuCo, and among the first was the removal of the Corporation’s previous CEO, under whose watch sugar production plummeted 40 per cent, though under his leadership the company received US$160M from the Treasury. Later, the media reported, that the GuySuCo Board of Directors was instructed to cease functioning. In fact, a new Board was appointed, and a full-page colour advertisement - something which is reportedly very costly - announcing the new Board members was placed in all the dailies. No sooner than the ink on the advertisement had dried, the Government’s spokesperson announced the Cabinet hadn’t approved a new Board, and the nation would hear on that matter shortly. That was several weeks ago. In the meantime, the SPU and the GuySuCo were collaborating towards securing the estates under the Corporation’s control, namely:- Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt Estates. To that end, the SPU announced that it had secured, on GuySuCo’s behalf, some US$150M in financing to support moving from a sugar to sugar-cane industry, a policy that was advanced by GAWU and supported by many individuals and organisations. The SPU said it envisaged that the investment in power generation, plantation white sugar, packaged sugar, bottled molasses
and cane juice would ensure that the industry remains viable and sustainable. It is hard to argue with the SPU’s ideas, but the GAWU remains concerned that, so far, a credible plan is yet to be disclosed. Nevertheless, the Union, in principle, was in agreement with the direction being pursued. When it seemed that some light was emerging at the end of the tunnel, the nation sadly learnt that some of our decision-makers are opposed to the plans to make the industry once again sustainable. The press has reported that a ‘certain faction’ is strongly urging that the industry be placed, once again, in the hands of those who placed the industry in the state it finds itself in now-a-days. It is a matter which the FITUG and the GTUC saw eye-to-eye on and which prompted the organisations to issue a joint statement criticizing moves in that direction. Later, Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, disclosed that Cabinet is still to approve a new Board, but despite previous reports, the old Board remained functional. Then, without any prior indication, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder announced he was looking for a new Board. It was the same Minister Holder who told the media that he hadn’t control of GuySuCo after the workers of Wales staged a picketing exercise outside of his office. The obvious state of confusion is not a healthy development, and could have been avoided had the Government studied its approach properly before embarking on what can be rightly seen as a fishing exhibition in the sugar industry. The firefighting approach to sugar and governance generally will not allow us to reach the goals we aspire for. It is time for all the stakeholders – Government, Opposition, Union/Workers, the GuySuCo – to sit down and have a frank discussion on the industry, belated as it is.
The confused approach to the sugar sector
Sugar is, indeed, too big to fail!
Govt’s contrasting approach in sugar and bauxite noticeable
- closed estates generated $80B in economic activity
Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, during his press conference on (Friday) April 13, 2018, announced that the economy expanded by only 2.1 per cent, the lowest growth rate in recent times. Incidentally it was Black Friday. Was it coincidence?
ed, Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI), and Republic Bank (Guyana) Limited – four (4) publicly listed companies in Guyana which are among the country’s largest enterprises – we learnt they spent aggregately G$9.6B.
The Minister, among other things, charged that sugar production of 137,307 tonnes in 2017 was responsible for the poor economic showing. The GAWU will not rehash the reasons for the poor production, which we shared publicly on more than one occasion. Though the Minister seeks to use sugar as one of his punching bags in seeking to explain what is clearly a worrying situation, at the same time, the admission by Minister Jordan serves to demonstrate the importance of the sugar industry to the wider economy.
Also, it is estimated that the now jobless workers of Skeldon, Rose Hall, East Demerara and Wales conservatively utilized about 85 per cent of their earnings on the purchase of goods and services. In other words: directly, shop keepers, market vendors, fisherfolk, transportation providers, etc have lost $10.15B. Indirectly, using the income multiplier formula, a further $70B has been removed from the economy. This is a massive and substantial hit, and one which, especially rural Guyana may not be able to recover from.
As GAWU has been saying consistently, the sugar industry cannot be seen solely and only from the financial/profitability argument the Government, like a horse with blinkers, is focused on. Important as that is, the GAWU strongly believes, and must reiterate, that sugar has to be seen from its wider economic impact in terms of direct and indirect employment; taxes, whether those be income or consumption; and foreign exchange receipts, among other things. The four (4) closed estates aggregately paid their workers $11.9B in 2014, using data available from the Sugar CoI report. To illustrate the significance of what the economy has really lost, we contrasted what obtains in the private sector. Using most recently available data concerning employment costs at Banks DIH LimitCOMBAT 01 March - 12 May, 2018
With now four estates closed, some resuming operations in a minimalistic way at this time, it would be interesting to know what the 2018 figures would reveal. Clearly, from all appearances, the wiser economic decision was to keep the industry going, while working to make it profitable and viable, as the SPU is now seeking to do at Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt. What is clear, as Minister Jordan is reported in the April 14, 2018 Kaieteur News to have said, is that sugar is too big to fail.
The GAWU has seen, in several sections of the media, reports about the recent interaction between the Ministers of Natural Resources, among others, meeting with the workers of the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI). The engagement has sadly been occasioned by the sanctions - which have included Rusal in their sweep, and which drive home in a very real way how connected as a world and people we are. The fact is that workers in Guyana could be reduced to mere hapless victims by the actions and decisions of others thousands of miles away. Our Union hopes that the worst is not realized; and should the worst come about, that some arrangement could be put in place to ensure that the workers retain their jobs with decent rates-of-pay and acceptable conditions of work. We were also pleased to learn that the Government, from what we saw in the media, has committed to standing by the workers, who undoubtedly have found themselves between a rock and a hard place. The involvement of the workers’ organization representative is also a welcome sign, and would serve to ensure that the workers’ interests are safeguarded. While heartened by what we regard as an almost instantaneous response by Government to the threat posed to the BCGI workers, we, at the same time, recognise the dichotomy in regard to the approach to the plight of the thousands of now jobless workers in the sugar industry. The situation facing thousands of families and scores of communities in the sugar belt has not been occasioned by external forces, but is the doing of those
who are entrusted with ensuring that all Guyanese can live a decent and respectable life. We saw in the April 26, 2018 Guyana Chronicle, that Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman who quoted to have said “[t]he government of Guyana has a duty to stand and work with you to save your jobs”. It is a statement that we cannot disagree with, but we wonder why such sentiments were apparently absent as the Administration, of which Minister Trotman is a high-ranking member, considered and later implemented what could only be described as a cruel, heartless and callous policy to minimize the sugar industry and put thousands of workers on the breadline; dash the aspirations and dreams of too many innocent children; and push back the progress in several communities. Indeed, when one looks at the two (2) situations, from all appearances, it seems that the Government has turned its back on this group of Guyanese who find themselves in the most difficult of circumstances. Without a doubt, the sugar workers and their families and their communities would also wish for the Coalition Government, which promised them a ‘Good Life’, to put their minds at ease and tell them that tomorrow will be better than the dreadful nightmare of today. As we see the contrasting approaches being employed by the Administration in the two industries, this is not a situation of apples and oranges, but we wish to remind our Government that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander too!
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” - Martin Niemöller PAGE THREE
IMF keen about sugar situation
GAWU meeting with the IMF team
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), on May 02, 2018 at its Kingston, Georgetown Head Office, engaged a team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Fund is currently undertaking its annual Article IV exercise, wherein the country’s economic situation and trajectory are assessed after hearing from the Government and other stakeholders as well. Our Union was indeed pleased to welcome the team, as it has been for many years now. During our discussions, which lasted for about an hour and a half, the IMF team was keen to hear from the GAWU our views on the developments in the sugar industry, which it said made significant economic and social impacts. We did share with them the sad situation that is now playing out in many villages, as thousands of workers have been put on the breadline following the closure of four (4) sugar estates during the last two (2) years. Our Union lamented that the decisions to minimize the sugar industry was taken without any study to really assess the ramifications. The GAWU contended that had such an examination been properly, and moreso sincerely, pursued, it certainly could have very well avoided the harshness of the situation today. The IMF team wanted to know how the displaced workers were coping at this time. We did advise that many are unable to get steady jobs, and even in those instances where they have found jobs, the conditions are, in many instances, far inferior from what they enjoyed as sugar workers. This, we shared, has had a telling impact on family life, with some workers having to contend with the reality of a broken family, noticeable growth of domestic violence, or the discontinuance of their children’s education, etc. The issue of severance was raised, and we shared that the payments the workers received could not sustain them for any considerCOMBAT 01 March - 12 May, 2018
able period. On this matter, we expressed our deep dismay that, despite the law, the Government paid some workers half of their entitlements, with a commitment to pay the remainder in the second half of 2018. On the approach to sugar, we told the IMF team that the Government had changed gear somewhat, opting now to divest Rose Hall and East Demerara Estates as opposed to outrightly closing them. This intention, the GAWU said, at least offered some dismissed workers a chance to regain employment. We expressed our deep concern with the dramatic fall in sugar production, which moved from some 231,000 tonnes in 2015 to just over 137,000 tonnes in 2017. We shared that the usual finger of blame – work stoppages – could not have been used by GuySuCo as an excuse, recognizing that official statistics painted a different picture. We also informed the team about our dismay regarding the conflicting statements of the Minister of Agriculture in relation to his responsibility for the sugar industry. We said this is a matter that required urgent attention and rectification, as it does not serve to inspire confidence. The GAWU also welcomed the recent $30B financing for the industry, but, at the same time, expressed our deep concern regarding the absence of a clear plan. We did share that in principle we supported the initiatives but could be convinced only after seeing the plan that would be put forward. The Union also used the opportunity to share its concerns about the economy, and pointed to the 2.1 per cent growth recorded in 2017 as against the IMF’s expected growth rate of 3.5 per cent. We said the large disparity was indeed worrying, and the team explained that some sectors of the economy fell below expectations and thus the less than anticipated economic expansion.
We also expressed our uneasiness over the decline in our gold and foreign exchange reserves, which have been on a downward trend. In terms of gold reserves, the IMF said the reserves have been converted to investments by the Central Bank, which they felt was a prudent move. Regarding the foreign exchange reserves, the IMF team said that shortfall in export earnings together with higher imports accounted for the decline in the foreign exchange reserves. Nevertheless, the currently held reserves are sufficient to cover 3.2 months of imports. The team advised that the international benchmark is to have reserves to cover 3 months of imports. This is not necessarily comforting news, taking account that the prices of fuel, which represents a sizeable portion of imports, is on the rise. Even if the reserves remain unchanged, should oil prices continue on their current trend, the available 3.2 months of import cover could very well fall below the international benchmark. We also expressed concerns regarding the pressures on the Guyana dollar, recognizing lower export earnings with a reduced foreign exchange reserve offers very little flexibility to maintain our dollar’s value. On this score, we recognized that keen attention has to be paid to our productive sectors, as a depreciation of our dollar at this time would be gravely disastrous. The GAWU spoke about the
increasing borrowing by the Government in recent times. The IMF did advise that over the next two (2) years, Guyana’s GDP to Debt ratio would exceed the benchmark of 60 per cent. Nevertheless, with oil inflows from 2020, the ratio would decline to acceptable standards. Of course this is not necessarily a guarantee, as there are so many factors at play. On the matter of oil, we also shared our concerns regarding the agreement inked and the take for Guyanese. Moreover, we shared with the IMF that we do not believe it is wise to put all our eggs in the oil basket, as we are seeing the Government is doing at this time. Such a policy, we said, can prove to be regrettable in the long run. The GAWU also shared its concerns about what is taking place in the rice sector, where many farmers are barely keeping their heads above water. We decried the Governmental bungling which led to our catfish exports to the USA having been banned. And we noted that high land rents and drainage and irrigation charges for farmers are serving as another pressure on them, whilst acting as a disincentive. We considered our engagement with the IMF as fruitful, and our frank discussions, we believe, helped the team to have a better understanding of workers’ concerns and the situation in the sugar industry.
Job Evaluation at DHBC commences
The Demerara Harbour Bridge
The GAWU and the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC), during negotiations in 2016 and agreed to conduct a joint Job Evaluation exercise. Despite some delay on the part of the DHBC, the Union continued to pursue the conduct of the exercise, which commenced on April 18, 2018. At this time, the parties, together with the Human Resources consultants – S.V. Jones and Associates – are examining the job descriptions regarding the various posts at the DHBC. The Union, in order to be better informed, will be visiting workers to get a better apprecia-
tion of the various tasks the workers perform. Following the examination and acc e pt an c e of the job descriptions, the next step will be involved ranking of the jobs, taking into account matters such as qualifications, experience, responsibilities, among other things. Finally, the parties will undertake a compensation survey by obtaining rates of pay for similar jobs from credible organisations. That data will then be used to devise new salary scales and rates of pay. The GAWU will continue to press for the exercise, which it outstanding for some time, to be completed in a timely manner, while ensuring that it is thorough. PAGE FOUR
It is time to end hopscotch approach to the sugar industry - FITUG/GTUC
the desired ends and goals. We believe the present direction the new leadership is taking the sugar estates is one whereby many lost jobs would re-emerge. In such circumstances, the stakeholders would unavoidably be involved in the thrust to make the industry sustainable. The large decline of the industry in 2016 and 2017 has caused us to lose hope and faith in the old management team, which did everything to alienate the workers and their Unions. Their programme was one of denying workers and citizens a loaf of bread, whereas the current team
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), like many Guyanese and even those beyond our country’s shores, have been following very closely the developments in the sugar industry in recent times. As is now well known, some 7,000 workers have lost their jobs following the closure of Skeldon, Rose Hall, East Demerara and Wales Estates in the last two (2) years. Despite repeated calls and sincere advice not to proceed in this direction, the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo), under its previous leadership, proceeded with what could only be described as a disastrous policy, which severely undermined the social fabric in several sugar communities and has clouds of despair hovering over thousands of ordinary Guyanese. Against that background, FITUG/ GTUC were extremely dismayed to learn that attempts are being made, or possibly a process has been put in motion, to reverse a decision to transfer responsibility for the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo) from the Ministry of Finance and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) back to the Ministry of Agriculture. Our organisations must pointedly say that we cannot support such a move, recognizing the clear failure of its past leadership. Our nation has seen sugar production declining by over 40 per cent between 2015 and 2017, in spite of the support provided by the State. At the same time, the workers and their representative organisations have been treated in a most distasteful and disdainful manner, and have seen several hard won benefits simply taken away. And, we cannot forget the massive failure of the resuscitated and short-lived GuySuCo Other Crops Division which despite millions being expended, has not gotten off the ground and former cane fields converted for seed paddy at Wales are slowly being overtaken by bushes and vines. COMBAT
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Certainly, the sugar industry, which is so important for many reasons, cannot afford to be placed back in the hands of those who provided such ruinous leadership. Our bodies sincerely contend and strongly believe that moving in such a direction will only serve to inflict further harm on the sugar industry, which is now nearly four (4) centuries old – the oldest economic endeavour in our country. This is not in the interest of the Guyanese people, especially the tens of thousands who depend on the industry’s operations. Such a reality, we hold, will bring about irreparable harm to our country, and set back our progress and development. While we are aware of allegations that NICIL hasn’t had the proudest of records, we, at the same time, note attempts being made to resume operations at the three (3) recently closed estates. FITUG/GTUC, while pleased with this development, also cannot fail to express our concern over the contractualisation of the 1,000 workers, who reportedly have been re-employed. Though we understand this is a temporary arrangement, we, at the same time, cannot turn a Nelson’s Eye to the expansion of such informal employment relations in our country. Our bodies call on those contractors to ensure that workers’ NIS payments are honoured and, that as we celebrate Occupational Safety and Health Month, the re-employed workers receive Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We also look forward to other rights being enjoyed which are guaranteed through our local laws, and international conventions being upheld. The FITUG/GTUC also is aware of the recent $30B financing secured to improve the viability of the remaining GuySuCo estates. We welcome this initiative, and look forward to learning about the plans to realize the viability objective which is necessary and needed in these times. While our bodies believe that a workable plan must involve the workers and their organizations who are critical in reaching
is seemingly demonstrating its desire to maintain the scope of the industry. At this time, the FITUG and the GTUC cannot lend a supporting voice to the intrigues playing out in the corridors of power regarding the sugar industry. Moving back, it is generally recognized, is not usually a step in the right direction. Our organisations strongly uphold that it is time to end the hopscotch approach to the sugar industry in the interest of all concerned.
GuySuCo pensioners protest new pay arrangements
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) actively supported a picketing exercise by retired employees of the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) outside of the LBI Community Centre on April 27, 2018. The pensioners are extremely dismayed by attempts by the state-owned sugar company to demand that their pensions be sent to the commercial banks for payment. Currently, the pensioners would uplift their pensions weekly, and in some cases monthly, from a number of centres close to where they reside. This arrangement has been in place for decades now. The pensioners are strongly contending that the arbitrary change in the payment mechanism places additional burdens on them. For instance, they would be required to travel to the nearest bank to collect their pension sums, which for some of them is a very meagre amount to begin with. For those pensioners who do not have bank accounts, we need not explain the travails one has to go through now-a-days to open an account. Some pensioners have shared with us they lack certain essential pre-requisites, like TIN certificates, which we should not forget
one has to pay for to obtain; or they may reside with their children, and therefore would not have a proof of address. Some even have the real difficulty of having sufficient sums to satisfy the minimum balance to open a bank account. This new arrangement is being imposed in circumstances of rising crime, where the aged and pensioners are also vulnerable a factor to consider, and not to be easily dismissed. It is indeed saddening that GuySuCo has chosen to overlook these realities that the pensioners, some in their 70s, and 80s face and encounter. The treatment of these former sugar workers, whose energies and dedication helped to build the sugar industry and contributed to nation building, is disheartening and disturbing to say the least. It is generally accepted that we treat persons at this stage of their lives with respect and dignity, and we need to be cognizant of the difficulties they face on several fronts. We urge GuySuCo, as an established state entity in our society, that it seeks to alleviate, and not aggravate, the challenges of its former workers, on whose contributions we gratefully stand. PAGE FIVE
Most retrogressive step workers could take is to be disorganised! - GAWU responds to the Peeping Tom and the Eyewitness maybe unintentionally serve the workers oppressors in the name of profits and super-profits.
The GAWU was extremely displeased to see two articles titled which appeared in the May 01 Kaieteur News and the May 02 Guyana Times, respectively “Workers must liberate themselves from their unions” and “Labour’s lost”. Both authors, who hide behind anonymity under the guises of “Peeping Tom” and “Eyewitness”, have most distastefully chosen to be critical of workers organisations at a time when the workers’ of Guyana are celebrating Labour Week. While we accept and uphold a person’s right to an opinion, we, at the same time, cannot stand idly by and allow such ill-founded innuendos to be left hanging. The Peeping Tom’s column begins by laying blame at the Union’s doorstep for the closure of estates. Conveniently or otherwise, the columnist may have forgotten that while the sugar unions were in the forefront of the struggles to keep the doors of the estates open, there were several other organisations which also expressed their support and solidarity with workers, and some sought to actively participate in the fight. Interestingly, only the unions are castigated. Nevertheless, we are proud of the battles that we waged on several fronts. It is our sincere view that our sustained struggle served, at least for now, to shift the Government’s position from closure to divestment, which in effect will keep the estates open, albeit under different arrangements. The Peeping Tom goes on say that workers, though rightfully deserving, will not benefit from the windfall revenues of the State. Again, this isolated statement cannot be disconnected from the reality of the situation. We operate in the confines of the Washington Consensus, an COMBAT 01 March - 12 May, 2018
imposed neo-liberal economic system which, by its very nature, does not have the interests of workers at heart, no matter how deserving the situation may be. This by no means is a situation unique to Guyana. Every year, on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the charity group OXFAM draws to attention the frightening inequity in the world. While, certainly, unions will point to the windfall, it is only in a system where in the workers’ interests are truly represented, with such pleas falling on considerate ears. The Peeping Tom urges workers to stand alone and un-united. This would probably be the most retrogressive step workers can ever take. As our country, in a few months’ time, will celebrate the centennial anniversary of Trade Unionism in our country, it represents a slap of disrespect to our past leaders, such as Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham, among others who encouraged workers to organize under the banner of a union. They, in their own wisdom, recognized the timely axiom of “United we stand, divided we fall”. In the years of unionism, workers have moved from working 12-hour days for below pittance-level wages, miserable working conditions, harassment from the employer class, to a time now when they have certain fundamental freedoms and protections, which serve to make their lives better. We do not believe this is, by any means, the end of the road. There is much yet to be done, and workers’ struggles are continuing to realize all their aspirations, which we would wish would come at the snap of a finger. The Peeping Tom’s call can only serve the interest of those who wish to crush the workers’ rights, and
Continuing in a despotic manner, the Eyewitness columnist is dismayed that sugar workers are not rioting. But while indeed there have not been riots, as he/ she may wish, the workers have not been lambs either. They have been out on the streets, with regularity, calling to attention their plight and difficulties. Just as recent as Labour Day, the workers marched proudly, holding prominently placards expressing their concerns with matters of concern. Their sustained struggle has not been in vain, as we saw not too long ago they got under the Minister of Agriculture’s thin skin when he recently disavowed GuySuCo, urging the workers to picket his colleague Minister Winston Jordan. The sugar workers recognise that their struggle must be within lawful confines. Riotous behaviour, as some may wish for their own ends, does not hold the answer to their problems. Certainly, it will diminish the goodwill they have accrued and are accruing.
The Eyewitness is also seemingly upset by the Union’s approach to represent the workers’ issues through the media. While he/she may be dismayed, we hold that every possible avenue should be used to highlight and bring attention to the workers’ matters, the media, of course, being an integral element. While the Eyewitness, ironically tapping away at computer keyboards, also cannot be ignorant of the several pressing matters of importance which have not attracted riots in reactions. Are those groups also failures? In our view, they certainly are not; but as Cheddi Jagan has taught us, it is through our consistent and united work and persistent struggle that we will win out. We nevertheless urge the Peeping Tom and the Eyewitness, whom we want to believe have workers interest at heart, to live up to their respective aliases and assist in making workers’ organisations stronger ,and not seek to tear them down. At the end of it all, the workers, who, from all appearances want to have a better life, will be the gravest victims.
Stop playing musical chairs with sugar!
The GAWU recognized from a report appearing on Newsroom, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan was quoted as saying “Where the Ministry of Finance can help, it will help but what we will not do is to take any responsibility for the agriculture sector and specifically for GuySuCo”. Minister Jordan’s statement stands in direct contrast to that of his colleague Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder who told the press, some weeks ago, that GuySuCo was no longer under his charge but responsibility has been transferred to the Finance Ministry. We could not fail to note, interestingly, that Minister Jordan took some weeks to correct what his colleague said and which was reported widely. We cannot help but wonder whether the intrigues, referred to by the FITUG and the GTUC, prompted the Minister’s comment.
The obvious and glaring confusion and the treatment of GuySuCo as seemingly as an unwanted step child is most
disturbing especially recognizing that tens of thousands depend on the state-owned enterprise for their sustenance. We nevertheless find Minister Jordan’s statement peculiarly strange taking into account that the Minister on December 29, 2017 signed an order which vested the shares of GuySuCo that are held by the State or GuySuCo or any other State corporation or agency to the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL). The Minister’s order, in effect, has made NICIL the sole shareholder of GuySuCo, which, as far as we are aware, falls under the Ministry of Finance. The GAWU believes it is time to stop the musical chairs approach to GuySuCo and the sugar industry. PAGE SIX
GAWU and AMCAR begin discussions on CLA
GAWU’s team on the right meeting with AMCAR’s representatives to begin discussions on the Collective Labour Agreement
Following the inking of the Recognition and the Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes Agreement between the GAWU and Amazon Caribbean (Guyana) Limited (AMCAR) for the company’s employees employed at its Rosignol, West Bank Berbice factory last December, the Union and the Company have begun discussions regarding the Collective Labour Agreement on April 25, 2018. Through the agreement, the Union is seeking the Company to address probationary period, promotions, acting allowance, a disciplinary procedure, pay rates,
hours of work, break periods, work week, premium payments, meal allowances, bonus, leave entitlements, PPE, severance pay, pension scheme, transportation allowance, bursaries, release to attend union courses, time off to attend union meetings, among other things. Two (2) meetings were held: on April 25 and May 02, 2018, the parties have managed, so far, to conclude discussions. The Union and the Company have agreed to meet on a weekly basis with a view to conclude the discussions in a timely manner.
Agriculture Minister needs to do what is right! The GAWU - we are sure, like many Guyanese - were surprised when they read the April 19, 2018 Stabroek News and learnt that Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, said he was searching for persons to name to the Board of Directors of the GuySuCo. One may have had to read this article twice, thrice and even more to confirm that their eyes were being honest. For us, this has to be probably the most interesting about-turns for the Agriculture Minister, who proclaimed just weeks ago, that GuySuCo was no longer on his table. Interestingly, the Minister offered no explanation for the change-of-heart or mind. Maybe he is on autopilot, or forgot what he said. Nevertheless, whatever the case may be, this is another sad turn in the confusion that has beset the sugar industry in recent weeks. The Minister’s nominees would be interesting, especially in view of the ‘differences’ in the Administration that have been reported in the media. Now, more COMBAT 01 March - 12 May, 2018
than ever, there is a strong need for capable, committed and motivated leadership of the sugar industry. We can no longer continue to inflict blunder after blunder, as we have seen in the last two (2) years.
The industry is capable of success, as we have consistently held, and from what we believe is driving the direction being laid out by the current leadership of the Corporation. We should not lose this opportunity and cause the renewed sense of hope to be wasted by the appointment of a Board which may have dissimilar intents and views. The GAWU urges the Minister to be bold, and to do what is right in the interest of all Guyanese now and in the future.
GAWU’s consistent defence of sugar workers upsetting to some, it seems
The GAWU recognizes that Mr Earl John, in a letter appearing in the April 06, 2018 Stabroek News, responded to some aspects of the contentions our Union raised in its letter that appeared in the April 05, 2018 Stabroek News and Kaieteur News and the April 06, 2018 Guyana Chronicle. Mr John, it seems, is upset for whatever reason, by our Union’s consistent defence of the sugar workers, who have been treated in a most disdainful manner in recent times. While Mr John contends that our Union is in a “dated box”, we wonder whether the author mis-spoke, or is conveniently forgetful. Our Union has been in the forefront representing changes to move the sugar industry away from its current configuration to one which is more realistic and viable. Our suggestions on this score have also been shared by many individuals and organisations, including GuySuCo, of which he was a senior executive. It is difficult, then, to see how we are dated. Nevertheless, we saw from GuySuCo, under its previous leadership, moves to take the Corporation down the same failed path of other crops diversification. It is clear as day to see those who stand in the “dated box”, as Mr John puts it. The letter writer then urges the Union to pursue “…appropriate strategies to bring balance back to workers’ lives”. But this is what we are doing, and have been doing, as we represent the re-opening of the estates identified for closure by the past GuySuCo leaders, and press that workers’ rights be respected. Separately it is gener-
ally known, unless one lives under a rock, we went as far as engaging the Administration and sharing with them our views on what could be done to make workers’ lives a bit easier. On the question of the health services provided by the sugar industry, we urge the writer to re-read carefully our letter, as we never had any claim to fame that the health services were granted during our presence in the sugar industry. We simply contend that those health services, like so many other things workers enjoy today, came not out of the benevolence of the owner-class, but through the reality of the workers’ struggle, which is clearly inscribed in the history of this country. Mr John then speaks about the implication of providing health services on GuySuCo’s cost of production. The Sugar CoI, which the author has referred to on several previous occasions, at page 42, advised that the Corporation’s Health Care costs totalled $300M in 2014. That sum is less than half of what went to the Corporation’s big-boys at the top-echelon in 2016, who number just a few. We must admit that we agree with Mr John when he said we must move “…onto a pitch that we can practice playing forward as a team”. Whilst our Union always embraced and showed a strong desire to move in that direction it is indeed unfortunate such lofty goals could not have been realized when he was at the helm. Nevertheless, we look forward to moving in this direction, belatedly as it may be.
“Capitalist barbarism, crisis and Imperialist wars,
or socialism” PAGE SEVEN
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When you are in a hole THE FOSSIL FUEL AND THE CLIMATE CRISIS
WFTU: Announcement on the 200 years since the birth of Karl Marx
On 5th May 1818, the great founder of the scientific world view of the working class, Karl Marx, was born in Trier of Prussia. His theoretical work and his action paved the way for the world working class to realize its historical role and to struggle for the end of the exploitation.
The burning of fossil fuels, which releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, has been identified as one of the chief culprits of climate change, which has manifested itself in the melting of the polar ice caps and rising sea levels which threaten millions of people
By Hannah McKinnon A pair of declarations, representing close to 500 organizations and 140 leading economists respectively, were submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), calling on countries and the process to address fossil fuel production and financing as a critical way of increasing ambition and meeting our shared climate goals. The Lofoten Declaration and the Not A Penny More Declaration are a call to stop letting fossil fuels, and the governments and money that enable them, off the hook. Despite decades of negotiations and agreements, and being the biggest driver of the climate crisis, fossil fuels aren’t even mentioned in the Paris Agreement. It is time for this to change: if we are going to avert the worst of global climate change, we must address fossil fuel demand AND supply. We know that there is more carbon in already producing reserves to take us beyond 1.5 or even 2 degrees. We cannot continue to allow governments and industry to expand and finance new fossil fuel production that only digs us deeper into the hole we are trying to get out of. The Declarations affirm that it is the urgent responsibility and moral obligation of wealthy fossil fuel producers, as well as public and private investors and development institutions, to lead in “stopping exploration and expansion of fossil fuel projects, and managing the decline of existing production in line with what is necessary to achieve the Paris climate goals.” COMBAT 01 March - 12 May, 2018
These submissions to the UNFCCC’s “Talanoa Dialogue” add to growing calls for action on ending fossil fuels within the UN process and beyond. Outside of these walls, movements around the world are standing up to fossil fuel infrastructure and expansion. From First Nations and allies in British Columbia standing up to the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline to civil society and frontline communities in Argentina demanding a different development pathway to avoid the dangerous exploitation of massive shale oil and gas reserves, the resistance is global. In order for this list of First Movers to grow, more political and financial decision makers must see the writing on the wall and say no to the fossil fuel industry. As Lofoten Declaration signatory Secretary General Martel of the Pacific Island Development Forum importantly notes, “the only reason why fossil fuel exploration continues is because of powerful people with vested interests and the political influence that they wield. The Lofoten Declaration is sending the message that there is no future for fossil fuels in a planet experiencing the current level of climate change. It stands to reason that fossil fuel exploration, and eventually production, must come to an end if we are to fulfill the commitments of the Paris Agreement which almost all countries in the world have now ratified.” We look forward to these powerful Declarations joining the many other calls heard in the Talanoa Dialogue for the need to address fossil fuel supply. The role of fossil fuel production in the climate crisis must be confronted head on, and the UNFCCC is no exception.
By analyzing the laws of the capitalist mode of production in his works, like the Critique of Political Economy (1859) and the Capital (1867), he proved that capitalism is incompatible with the workers’ prosperity and an obstacle to social development. He Karl Marx also highlighted the necessity of the class-oriented struggle of the masses for the establishment of the socialist society. Karl Marx, along with Friedrich Engels, played a key role in the foundation of the
International Workingmen’s Association (the first International) in 1864 in London, by writing its first “Declaration” and a series of its documents. Τhe International Workingmen’s Association, which was the predecessor of the World Federation of Trade Unions, united the labour movements of various countries under a joint proletarian fight, and Karl Marx vigorously fought for the continuation of its militant trajectory. Nowadays that the contradictions and rivalries among the monopolies are exacerbating, provoking wars and misery to the peoples, the work of Karl Marx will always be a polyvalent weapon in the hands of workers and ordinary people all over the world, in their everyday struggle for their working and social rights and for the abolition of exploitation of man by man.
WFTU: Denounces the murder of Palestinians
The World Federation of Trade Unions firmly condemns and demands the immediate stop to the slaughter of tens of Palestinians in Gaza by Israeli forces. Right now tens of unarmed Palestinians are being murdered, injured and threatened by the Israeli forces, because they are protesting against the transfer of the USA embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and because they demand the right to go back to their land that was taken from them on May 15th 1948.
At least 41 Palestinians have been murdered and more than 2.000 have been injured in Gaza on May 14, 2018, raising the toll to 100 Palestinians murdered since the beginning of their protests on March 30. The Israeli army continues to shoot our Palestinian brothers and sisters in cold blood. On the behalf of the 92 million workers the WFTU represents all over the Globe, we are joining our voice with the people of Palestine who are protesting and we demand: Stop to the aggression of the murderer state of Israel. No to the transfer of the USA embassy in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine. Stop the slaughter - recogniton of the independent Palestinian State! PAGE EIGHT
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Thousands of Iranians take to streets, enraged by Trump’s ‘insane’ breach of nuclear deal eral pullout from the [nuclear deal], and his idiotic remarks against the powerful Iran, revealed again the imperialistic nature of the criminal American leaders,” one group of protesters in Tehran said in a statement. “With God’s help, we will stand up and resist until the full destruction of the enemies of Islam and the oppressed nations of the world, especially the world-gobbling America.”
By Julia Conley Cities across Iran saw thousands of demonstrators pouring into the streets to express fury over President Donald Trump’s violation and abandonment of the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration, Iranian officials, and several other world powers. Protesters in Tehran and other cities car-
ried posters which read, “Mr. Trump, you are talking nonsense,” as they echoed Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who on Wednesday accused the U.S. president of telling lies about the deal, and calling his decision to withdraw from the agreement both “silly” and “impudent.” “The imbecile Trump’s pretexts and insane move following a psychological war and breach of contract and unilat-
Trump’s decision to end U.S. compliance with the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was made over the objections of international leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who personally lobbied the US President to honour the agreement—as well as 63 percent of Americans, according to a CNN poll. A small group of lawmakers in Iran burned paper U.S. flags in Parliament on Wednesday, with Speaker Ali Larijani saying, “It is obvious that Trump only understands the language of force.”
If the deal collapses completely, international monitoring of Iran’s nuclear facilities and restrictions placed on the country’s nuclear program could end, while sanctions demanded by the U.S. on the Iranian oil industry and other sectors could be reimposed. For average Iranians, many of whom attended the demonsrations, wrote Amir Ahmadi Arian and Rahman Bouzari in the New York Times , the news of Trump’s move “elicited feelings of bitterness and resignation.” “At dinner tables and in bakery lines and taxi pools, people across Iran are discussing their traumatic memories of life under punishing sanctions,” the Iranian authors wrote. “Iranians now experience the disturbing prospect of crippling inflation, budget cuts, delayed payments and shortages of basic goods, especially imported medication upon which many lives depend.”
Activists, academics demand fair news coverage of Venezuela Elections not want to be a victim of media disinformation,” a group of people including Argentinian Nobel Peace Prize Adolfo Perez Esquivel, the Spanish writer and journalist Ignacio Ramonet, the Colombian lawyer and former senator Piedad Cordoba, the Landless Workers’ Movement coordinator Joao Pedro Stedile, and economists Mark Weisbrot and Jacques Sapir, express their concerns regarding Thousands march in Caracas on May Day calling for, among other things, peaceful elections the media misinBy teleSUR English seeks to conceal and stigmatize the diverformation about sity of opinions. We refuse to be victims the Venezuelan elections, and demand An international group of intellectuals of a media disinformation operation, the “balanced information that allows us to and activists are demanding media cor- objective of which is to create – in inter- understand the complexity of the situaporations to inform on the upcoming national public opinion – the conditions tion in Venezuela.” Venezuelan elections in a more balanced to justify anti-democratic actions against and honest way, instead of reproducing Venezuela,” reads and online petition on “In this tense political context, we – cita single narrative that’s being spread by the medium web platform. izens of the world, targeted by the great most media outlets. international media corporations – claim “We oppose the media narrative that In the petition, called “Venezuela: I do our right to be informed in a plural, balCOMBAT 01 March - 12 May, 2018
anced and honest way about the upcoming events in Venezuela,” the petition reads. Venezuelans will take part in the May 20 electoral process to elect a new president among three candidates, two of which are challenging the incumbent Nicolas Maduro, besides the local legislative councils. The petition explains that the election will be overseen by over 2,000 international observers, including organizations such as the African Union, the Caribbean Community and the Electoral Experts Council of Latin America, and media still claims the process is a fraud. “This democratic appointment, however, is already being boycotted by the political and media arms of powerful groups nationally and internationally denouncing the results before they have even been announced,” says the petition. Despite opposition candidates having actually said they trust the Venezuelan electoral system, other sections of the opposition are thinking the process is a fraud and have called for abstaining from voting, while others even have called for a military intervention instead of taking part in the elections. PAGE NINE
Free Lula! - FITUG al forces that seek world hegemony, have carried out a vicious and unprincipled counter-offensive in which they have deployed every conceivable weapon – ranging from economic sabotage to trumped up corruption and impeachment charges – against the South American progressive, anti-imperialist leaders and their governmental administrations. The tragic outline of this treasonous political, economic and judicial insurgency campaign against the South American progressive and revolutionary forces is as follows:
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva. He has been jailed following a politically-inspired decision to bring down one of the most outstanding and respected leaders of our continent
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) joins with several international trade union bodies such as the ITUC, the ITF and the WFTU, as well as the Central Workers of Brazil (CTB) and the peace-loving and progressive-minded peoples of the world, to express our strongest condemnation over what we contend is a politically-inspired decision by the Brazilian Courts to incarcerate the country’s former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The FITUG is strongly of the view that this manifestation is part of the orchestrated campaign to target and sordidly bring down one of the most outstanding and respected leaders of our continent. It is incredulous - and for us unbelievable - that Lula, who commands such great respect and much admiration by not only millions of his countrymen and women, but the downtrodden and democratic forces across the world, has been brazenly hounded by the economic interests, both local and foreign, several sections of the media, and the backward section of the military establishment to achieve their economic and political aims, which they cannot secure from the ballot box. The FITUG sees these efforts as an ignoble attempt to tarnish and besmirch the proud legacy of President Lula, whose Government and Party implemented policies which lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty, provided land to the landless, and improved his country’s image on the world stage. We need to recall the historic developments in South America, whereby an anti-imperialist and pro-socialist movement emerged in the early years of the 21st century, and by the year 2012, several outstanding progressive nationalist COMBAT 01 March - 12 May, 2018
leaders had been elected to Government by the South American masses throughout the region: Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia,Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Nestor and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, Fernando Lugo Mendez in Paraguay, Lula in Brazil, Jose “Pepe” Mujica in Uruguay, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and Michelle Bachelet in Chile; and of course our own Cheddi Jagan in Guyana. These victories, in several ways, supplemented Fidel Castro’s revolutionary Cuba, which had been carrying the banner of socialism in the Americas and the Caribbean since 1959! For our region, this was a truly historic development, and it constituted the high point of the centuries-long historic struggle of the masses of working-class and impoverished South Americans to transform the unequal, elitist, oppressive, capitalistic and oligarchical societies that had been foisted upon them ever since the Spanish, British and other forces colonized the region centuries ago. Here, then, was a tremendous breakthrough in the progressive, working-class movement to develop new, just, equal and inclusive South American societies. And the impressive results were there for all to see in the millions of people who were lifted out of poverty and the hundreds of new, socially-uplifting programs and institutions that were birthed in virtually all of the countries in question, but especially in Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. But, of course, the powerful traditional South American oligarchical classes and institutions – and their state collaborators – did not simply fade away! Rather, they, in partnership with the internation-
1. 2002 – the abortive coup of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and the consistent harassment of him and his government; 2. 2012 – the impeachment of Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo Mendez on ridiculous charges of “insecurity” and “nepotism”; 3. 2016 – the impeachment of Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff on ludicrous charges of so-called “administrative misconduct” and “disregard for the federal budget”, which is described as a ‘coup’ and which was extended to continue efforts to prevent Lula from contesting the upcoming Brazilian elections; 4. 2016 – the effort by the extreme rightist forces within the opposition in Venezuela to launch impeachment and recall processes against President Nicolas Maduro; 5. 2017 – the prosecution of Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner on a trumped up charge of “trying to defraud the
government”; and 6. 2017 – the prosecution and conviction of Lula on an equally trumped up charge of accepting a bribe when he was president of Brazil, and so on. And it should be emphasized that the witch hunts against both Lula and Cristina Kirchner are also “preemptive strikes” that are politically rooted and aimed at denying them from being candidates in their country’s elections which they are favoured to win! We fully comprehend that in this “war” which is being waged against the nationalist and other progressive forces of South America and the Caribbean, a variety of legal and constitutional processes are being twisted out of shape, bastardized and prostituted, and used for illicit political purposes. With this in mind, we hereby denounce the egregious injustice that has been inflicted on Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva! We wish him, the officers and members of the Workers Party of Brazil, and the masses of working-class Brazilians to know that we are in solidarity with them in this struggle. We call upon all nations and governments that have a commitment to decency and justice to raise their voices and publicly demand that Lula be freed, and that he be permitted to compete in the upcoming presidential election in Brazil.
It may be wise to review decisions on sugar
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, is quoted in an April 27, 2018 Demerara Waves report as saying “[y]ou require people who are competent in sugar, who understand the industry, who understand business… to be able to serve on that Board”. This is an interesting admission by the Minister, as he seems to say those who served previously did not have sufficient competence to provide the leader-
ship the sugar industry requires. The Government, in view of Minister Harmon’s admission, may see it necessary and wise to review the decisions taken with regard to the sugar industry. Those decisions, as we well know, have placed thousands of Guyanese in a perilous situation at this time. PAGE TEN
FITUG’s 6th Delegates’ Conference:
A genuine workers’ forum
Delegates and observers attending the FITUG’s 6th Delegates’ Conference which was held on March 28, 2018
The 6th Delegates’ Conference of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), which was held on March 28, 2018 under the theme “For Betterment through Organisation and Solidarity”, was from all indications a success. The Conference which was held at the GAWU Conference Room in Kingston, Georgetown, saw nearly eighty (80) delegates representing the Federation’s affiliates – GAWU, NAACIE, GLU and CCWU – taking part in the Conference. The Conference delegates, who were drawn from among the Federation’s affiliates’ membership in the sugar industry, the manufacturing sector, the municipalities, the fishing industry, the beverage and bottling industry, in sales and distribution, in transportation, among other areas, were unanimous in expressing their concern over the current stateof-affairs of the workers. The Conference’s Opening Session saw FITUG’s President, Carvil Duncan, delivering a fiery address as he lamented the situation workers now face. He noted that Guyana has everything as he listed gold, bauxite, rice, sugar, fishing, and the newly discovered oil resources, among other things, but despite this seeming abundance of natural and physical wealth the country is unable to provide adequate jobs. FITUG’s President drew attention to the state of employment in our country, and queried whether in those circumstances our people can reach the promised ‘Good Life’. He pointed out, disappointingly, that several promises made by the Coalition Administration during the elections campaign remained unfulfilled. He also lamented the poor wages and salaries the workers enjoyed, as against what COMBAT 01 March - 12 May, 2018
our now-a-days leaders approved for themselves weeks after their assumption to office. Rhetorically, he asked: don’t the public servants, the policemen, the soldiers, the teachers, the nurses and others deserve more than the crumbs they were receiving? Turning to the sugar industry, Duncan expressed FITUG’s utmost dismay with the handling of the industry by the Government. He told delegates, observers and special invitees that the Government, during the elections campaign, promised not to close any estate but then betrayed that promise on its election to office. He charged that the decisions to close estates were not necessary, and pointed to submissions by the GAWU and the NAACIE to make the industry viable once more. The FITUG President said it is upsetting that those submissions did not appear to be considered by the Government. He opined that Government seems to be in confusion regarding sugar, as it is now seeking billions to re-open estates which should have never been closed. FITUG’s President, in closing, urged workers to remain united and stand together, as it is the only way they can be successful in defending their gains and advancing their rights. Chartered Accountant, Attorney-at-Law and Social Activist Mr Christopher Ram, who delivered the feature address and declared the Conference open, in his address also touched on the situation in the sugar industry. Ram pointed out, like the sugar unions, that “GuySuCo and sugar are not just a company, it is part of the economy, part of our culture, part of the fabric of our society…this is a sector that
has carried this country since little after its discovery”. He opined that by the time the restructuring of sugar was complete, some 10,000 persons whose only skills are related to work in the sugar industry would remain jobless. He pointed out that the ‘Washington Consensus’ approach to the sugar industry, that is to privatise closed estates, at best solves only one financial problem. He drew reference to the situation in the UK, where workers who were engaged in the coal mines that were privatised during the Margaret Thatcher Government still suffer on to this time, though several decades have elapsed. He said he didn’t believe that the Granger Government wanted its legacy to be a similar situation in the Guyanese sugar belt. Ram called on the Government to pay the sugar workers their outstanding severance pay now, noting that this was non-negotiable. He urged the Administration to give displaced sugar workers lands to engage in farming. He called on the Government to give tax-relief to companies and enterprises which employ redundant workers or which give scholarships to those workers. And he said the Administration should, in keeping with the Income Tax (in aid of industry) Act, provide fiscal incentives for companies which situate their operations in communities of the now closed estates. Turning to oil, the feature speaker expressed strong consternation with the agreement the Government has inked with Exxon and its partners. The agreement, he said, in effect ties Guyana’s hands for the next four (4) decades, and he could not help but wonder why the
Administration would ink such an agreement, especially since the Government was aware that oil in commercial quantities was found. He said, based on his computations, though the oil belongs to the Guyanese people, Exxon and its partners stood to get around 55 per cent of the profits and Guyana the remainder. He also spoke about the need for a more robust trade union movement, and charged that there was need for unity. Ram did express disquiet that it seemed the disunity appeared to be personality-based rather than issue-based. He nevertheless urged that the movement seek to become united once more in the interest of the workers of Guyana. The featured speaker also lamented the absence of campaign finance legislation, and strongly pressed the need for such legislation, especially in view of oil dollars that will soon begin to flow into the country. The Opening Session also received messages of greetings from the Director of the ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean, Ms Claudia Coenjaerts, and from the University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU) of Jamaica. A minute’s silence was also observed for trade unionists who had passed away since the last Conference. During the Conference’s Business Session, delegates and observers received the report of the General Secretary. That report, which reflected on the work and activities of the Federation since its 5th Conference in February, 2015, also spoke to a number of critical and pressing workers’ issues. Continued on page fifteen (15) PAGE ELEVEN
Sugar situation not going in the best direction
Continued from page fourteen (14) We recall the recently departed CEO of GuySuCo arguing as far back as 1993 that the factories were falling apart and required substantial capital expenditure. Interestingly, a quarter-century has gone by since then and the very factories remain operable. We accept that some investment may be needed, but we are not convinced at this time that the vast sum quoted is required. We also share the view that the sum sought, and apparently approved, could have been utilized to improve all the estates, and thus prevent the precarious situation thousands find themselves in now-a-days. The GuySuCo Agricultural Director also said investments would be made
in co-generation and the production of plantation white sugar. Moving in this direction was also suggested by GAWU, and while we welcome these initiatives, we recognize that conspicuously absent so far is a clear, defined and well-thoughtout plan to support the investments contemplated in order to make GuySuCo viable. Certainly, the sugar workers, and more so the Guyanese people, need to be aware of what is intended and the path that will be taken to reach the destination. This is especially notable considering that $30B of the Guyanese people’s assets has been collateralized in a deal for which the details are still to be disclosed. Added to that, Dr Davis is quoted to have said “[w]hat we cannot go back to is a labour intensive sugar industry. We can’t go back
GuySuCo unconscionable to its pensioners
there, we have to change this industry. If it is going to be competitive, it has got to be a modernised industry”. From that statement, it could be said that employment in the industry would be reduced. This is in contrast with what President David Granger said in his message to the National Assembly on January 10, 2018. At that time, President Granger informed that “[t]he Government is committed to making the industry efficient and competitive… preserving three enlarged estates and protecting the jobs of over 11,000 workers.” The GAWU also recognized former GuySuCo HR Director Mr Earl John in the March 30, 2018 Kaieteur News, coming to the defence of his colleagues in management. In seeking to explain the situation, Mr John refers to figures related to workers’ earnings contained in the Sugar CoI report. It is dismaying that the former GuySuCo director has chosen to rely on the data of the CoI, which has already been disproven by our Union. Certainly, Mr John, who was the industry’s chief HR person for several months, would know that the data he is referring to does not bear any semblance to the reality. Also, the former HR Director also would know that between 2015 and 2016, workers’ nominal incomes fell by 15 per cent. At the same time, remuneration relating to the Corporation’s top-most personnel rose by just over 80 per cent
between 2015 and 2016. Mr John also speaks about the Corporation’s provision of health care to workers and their families, seeming to forget that such facilities were not given freely, but were won through the struggle of the workers both past and present, and are financed through the sweat and tears of the workers who are up before the crack of dawn and work in the rain and shine. The sugar industry’s health facilities are also available to those in the management, who probably seldom utilize the services, given their ability to seek care at private medical institutions. While Mr John readily relies on the CoI report with regard to workers’ earnings, that same report also recommended that the Corporation’s health facilities “…should be maintained, especially as the public health services are still deficient and/or inaccessible”. The situation in the sugar industry is quickly evolving, not necessarily in the best direction. For the workers and those who depend on the industry, this is not the news they would wish to receive at this time. For us, it is indeed saddening that we have reached the state we find ourselves in, especially recognizing that it was not necessary, given the opportunities for improvement and sustainability and the serious consequences which have flowed from the decisions that have been taken.
8% pay hike for BEV workers GuySuCo’s Public Relations Officer, Ms Audreyanna Thomas, in responding to a picketing exercise by the pensioners of the Corporation at the LBI Community Centre, is quoted in the April 28, 2018 Stabroek News to have said the company’s moves relate largely to “…an increased security measure for both the corporation and as well as for the pensioners”. The GAWU finds Ms Thomas’ expressed rationale not only disingenuous, but saying a lot about the Corporation’s concern for its employees past and present. To date, dismayingly, the Corporation has not seen it fit to engage the pensioners and to get a better understanding of the real challenges they have in going in the direction the company is foisting on them. Apart from the mental and physical anguish that the Corporation is imposing on its pensioners, no one should, in any way, discount the financial implications of now going to the banks some distance away from where the pensioners would normally receive their payments. COMBAT
01 March - 12 May, 2018
For some pensioners, the cost of travelling to the bank really exceeds the sum they receive from GuySuCo. Then we cannot forget the threat of criminality as we exit the banks. Just weeks ago, the nation would recall the recent shootout between the police and persons on the seawall who allegedly were intent on robbing someone who had just concluded business at a bank. The Corporation should not look only at serving its self-interest and completely ignore the constraints the pensioners have and would have. It would be wise, in our view, for the GuySuCo to climb down from their perch atop their ivory towers to meet with the pensioners, and to listen, with a caring ear and an open mind to the several difficulties they would have. The intransigent attitude displayed by GuySuCo to these retired workers, in their twilight years - some of whom contributed over four (4) decades of their lives to the sugar industry, is, to say the least, unconscionable.
At the end of the negotiations between the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the Management of BEV Processors Inc on April 06, 2018, the 320-unionised workforce have benefitted from an eight (8) per cent rise in pay retroactive to January 01, 2018. The company initially, in response to the Union’s wage/salary demand, reacted with an offer of a 6 per cent pay hike. However, the Union’s team, which included GAWU General Secretary Cde Seepaul Narine; the Field Secretary Cde Gordon Thomas, and members of the Union’s Branch, including the shop stewards, citing higher cost-of-living, the erratic exchange rate, etc, persuaded the Management to approve the 8 per cent pay rise. The negotiations also saw the Union securing an increase in leave passage assistance. Through the agreement reached, workers with one to four years’ service would receive $20,000, up from $18,000;
those with five to seven years’ service would receive $22,000, up from $20,000, and those with eight years’ and more service would receive $25,000, up from $22,000. The Union also secured an improvement in the severance payments, whereby workers with one to three years’ service would receive two weeks’ pay for each year of service; those with four to five years’ service would receive three weeks’ pay; and for those with six and more years’ service, one (1) month’s pay would be received. The Company reiterated its position to examine the establishment of a contributory pension scheme. The Union called upon the Company to fulfill its undertaking this time. The BEV workers were delighted with the improvements the Union secured through the negotiations. BEV is engaged in the processing of sea bob, which is mainly destined for export, and our Union has been the first bargaining agent for the workers since August, 1993. PAGE TWELVE
GAWU gets better understanding of GuySuCo/SPU plans - Union concerned about absence of documented plan
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) was able to get a firmer understanding of plans by the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) and the Sugar Special Purpose Unit (SPU) regarding the recently acquired $30B financing package. Following a request by the Union, a GuySuCo/SPU team engaged union officials and workers’ representatives from the three (3) GuySuCo estates – Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt – for over two (2) hours on April 19, 2018. Through the meeting, the Corporation advised that it is working on transforming itself from a sugar to sugar cane industry, whereby it would move away from being largely a raw, bulk sugar producer to a state in which it will be producing several products and services as it seeks to diversify its revenue base. For the GAWU, this was pleasing news, as this is the direction the Union has been stressing that the sugar industry should go for it to realize its objectives of sustainable profitability. Through the encounter, the GAWU delegation learnt that the GuySuCo will seek to expend some $11B on capital works at the estates under the Corporation’s remit. We learnt that over 70 per cent of that sum would be spent towards improving cane production and productivity through the purchase of machines; rehabilitation of drainage and irrigation infrastructure; fixing of dilapidated bridges and revetments, and improving the condition of access roads. The GuySuCo expects that the investments will lead to improved cane quantity and quality, and thus higher production of sugar. In terms of the factory, sums will be spent on improving factory performance and reliability through the replacement and rehabilitation of certain components. Some of the monies will also be used to improve storage capacity for bagged and packaged sugar. Another set of monies is to be spent on the establishment of co-generation plants at Albion and Uitvlugt Estates. The company’s team advised that feasibility studies conducted have shown those ventures to be viable. On this matter, GAWU did advise the Corporation that there was need for a remunerative Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL). We did also ask the GuySuCo whether there were any assurances that the GPL would be willing to accept its electricity, recognizing several COMBAT 01 March - 12 May, 2018
other private enterprises have so far been unsuccessful in realizing their intentions of becoming electricity providers to the power company. Even if that hurdle is overcome, the GAWU did share its understanding that the GPL’s grid may not accept all power that could be exported, noting that, currently, all the power available for export from the Skeldon power plant would not be sent on to GPL. Our Union did also question how GuySuCo’s intentions correspond to GPL’s plans, taking into account the state-owned electricity utility is moving in the direction of natural gas-fired plants which Minister of Pub-
garding this area, which we found a bit strange. The Corporation did share with the GAWU delegation that it believes this venture would be feasible, pointing to the 180,000 tonnes per annum regional demand. We also learnt from the company that the Belizean sugar industry has been successful in this area, and there was little doubt that the situation would be similar in the Guyanese context. Our Union asked about the possibility of the CARICOM Common External Tariff (CET) being applied to extra-regional white sugar. We were told that the regional sugar producers – Belize, Jamaica, and Guyana – were working together on this, and expectedly, soon a decision would
GAWU and the GuySuCo/SPU team meeting on April 19, 2018 to discuss the plans relating to the recently secured $30B financing for the three (3) GuySuCo estates
lic Infrastructure, David Patterson, was reported in the media as saying was doable. The company’s team, did advise that these matters were not lost on them, and that GuySuCo and GPL, being both state-owned offered the Corporation a much better chance of becoming a power supplier to the electricity company more so given the existing relationship it has developed with the Skeldon plant. The GuySuCo/SPU team did also advise that the co-generation plants it is seeking to procure will be able to use a variety of fuel sources, including natural gas, and, therefore their intent is to become a yearround supplier of electrical power. Another major plank of the diversification involves moving into the production of plantation white sugar. On this, we learnt from GuySuCo/SPU that a European Union (EU)-funded study will soon commence and provide clarity re-
be made. The company advised whether the CET is approved or not, it believed it could be competitive in an open-market, especially when account is taken of its other revenue streams. The Corporation did share that it is looking at other possibilities, but would be informed by what the numbers reveal. GAWU did accept that while there may be need for improvement in the factories, there must be close and careful attention to what is taking place in the fields, recognizing the criticalness of an adequate cane supply. Our Union strongly represented that there was the need for the involvement of the workers. We told the GuySuCo/SPU team that while it seeks to improve its fields and factories, which we welcome, at the same time, it needed to ensure that the workers remain committed and motivated, as they represent, in our view, the most crucial link. The
GAWU urged that there is need for more collaboration, and the confrontational hostilities GuySuCo displayed toward the Union and the workers in recent times was not helpful to the industry. Our Union also told the company that there was need for respect of our agreements, practices and norms which have prevailed for decades now. GAWU did ask GuySuCo for a copy of the plan, explaining that it would allow us to have a deeper appreciation of what it is GuySuCo is seeking to accomplish. On this we were told that the plan is still being worked out, but our input and views would be sought. While for us this was a bit surprising, especially noting that funds have been secured, the GAWU strongly contended that there was need for a workable and realistic plan, taking account of all of the factors, and that it cannot be a mere collection of ideas and intents. We nevertheless are willing, if asked, to lend our voices and ideas towards having a plan that would see the industry recovering in the interest of the workers, the economy, and the country. We also did use the opportunity to raise our concerns with the seeming intent to contract out sections of the workforce engaged in drainage and irrigation works. The company did inform that this was neither their intent nor objective. They did advise that given their experience in this regard, they have commercialized their drainage and irrigation services, offering it for sale to the Government and other interested persons. The company disclosed that it has reached an agreement with the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) wherein it would be paid to maintain and operate the drainage and irrigation services at the estates that were closed. In other words, those workers undertaking drainage and irrigation tasks would continue to remain employees of the sugar company. Moreover, those employees of the closed estates who were retained to operate the drainage pumps and sluices would also remain GuySuCo workers. Preference will be given to redundant employees who wish to be contractors of the extended drainage and irrigation network. The Corporation also did inform that, at its operable estates, it may employ contractors to execute works which it may lack the capacity to undertake. Continued on page fifteen (15) PAGE THIRTEEN
Mid-East situation alarming - FITUG The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) is very concerned about the evolving situation in the Middle East, and the looming threat of perhaps a Third World War. We have recently received a statement from the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) on the matter, and fully embrace the sentiments contained therein. At this time, FITUG calls on all Guyanese who are peace-loving to raise their voices and denounce those beating the drums of war.
is calling on all trade unions and all workers of the five continents to demand
of war in that region and the world. The ruling circles, especially of the USA,
The large military forces which have gathered in the air, at sea and at land of the Mediterranean region are using the pretext of the use of chemical weapons by Syria as justification for this build up and threat to Syria. The accusation against Syria is widely viewed as false.
Below are germane aspects of the WFTU statement to all Trade Unions internationally on the developments in the Middle East. The FITUG has made adjustments to the received text so that it is clearer to follow, and so that its readership remains focused on the question of war directed at Syria, but which promises to escalate into a global conflict with horrendous consequences. US military ships in the South East Mediterranean Stop the war preparations The World Federation of Trade Unions
threatening Syria and the Syrian people with missile attacks.
the end of the dangerous plans currently underway in the Southeastern Mediterranean. It is signalling the growing danger
France and Great Britain, and their allies, are particularly called upon to desist from the war preparations aimed at
erable existence they are now forced to contend with. But while there seems to be some elation in the partial employment of 14 per cent of the retrenched workers, the fact is that a large number of those workers who have been re-engaged have not been hired by the SPU, but by contractors, and
to load the canes; or if they are required to wait on punts to load canes. Added to that, no personal protective equipment, though required by law, is provided to them, nor are the workers in receipt of any tools to carry out their tasks. Furthermore, several important benefits won out of the struggles of workers over
are engaged on short-term contracts. As the April 02, 2018 Stabroek News reported, those workers are being paid a flat rate which, for instance, does not take into consideration the conditions of the canes they harvest; the additional distances that they may be required to walk
many years have been discontinued. Moreover, the workers are required, from their earnings, to make their contributions to the NIS, and worse yet, when the crop comes to an end, their employment with the contractor simply ceases to exist. Undoubtedly, it is a very depressing
The exacerbation of the situation and the risk of a generalized military conflict in the wider region of the Middle East must be condemned and opposed by the working class, as these pose a great danger to working-people worldwide. The World Federation of Trade Unions calls on the trade union organizations to raise their voice against the war preparation and the threat before the Syrian people, and indeed all peoples. The WFTU stresses the importance of friendship and solidarity at this time, as we confront the real dangers of war that has reared its head.
Sugar situation not going in the best direction
Our Union recognizes a number of reports in various sections of the media regarding happenings and developments in the sugar industry. For the GAWU, the shining of the spotlight on the industry is both welcome and an encouraging sign. And, for the thousands who have been affected by the callous plans to minimize the industry, it serves to tell them they have not been forgotten, and there is still a great deal of concern about their well-being. Though there hasn’t been any official announcement, as far as we are aware, we saw the Guyana Times of April 02, 2018 reporting GuySuCo Chairman, Mr Colvin Heath-London, as saying, “The SPU operations, in conjunction with GuySuCo, will be able to employ directly and indirectly in excess of 1000 people”. While heartened that as many as 1,000 retrenched workers have been re-employed, if the number is indeed accurate, it pales in comparison to the roughly 7,000 persons placed on the breadline following the closure of sugar estates in the last two (2) years. For many of them, they still remain jobless, eking out a living on whatever may come their way. Certainly, this is not the way our people should live. Undoubtedly, the champions of our independence, in their wildest of dreams, would have never wanted the freedom they and others struggled for and eventually won, to mean this humilation our people find themselves in, and the misCOMBAT 01 March - 12 May, 2018
situation, and when looked at in totality, the workers are definitely worst off. Really, how much different, if at all, are such retrogressive conditions from the pre-independence era? Clearly, at this stage of our development, it is a retrograde step; and for us, it is disheartening that workers are seemingly being taken advantage of, especially when they and their families find themselves in such a distressing and vulnerable situation. As we reflected on what is playing out in the sugar industry, we recalled that not too long ago, Guyana, with the assistance of the ILO, launched its Decent Work Country Programme. A report from the DPI informed that Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, at the activity, said, “…we want to improve the lives of our people, and how we can make Guyana a country where there is sustainable livelihood based on the availability of decent work”. Today, weeks after, the Prime Minister’s utterances ring hollow in the sugar belt. The April 02, 2018 Guyana Chronicle also reported GuySuCo Agricultural Director, Dr Harold Davis Junior, saying that around 60 per cent of the $30B financing that was recently secured would be spent improving GuySuCo’s three (3) factories. Dr Davis argued that the factories are in need of significant capital injection. This, however, is a perennial tune of GuySuCo’s. Continued on page twelve (12) PAGE FOURTEEN
Demand your rights, be involved... Continued from page sixteen (16) International Situation Comrades, Labour Day is, as we know, a day when we raise high the banner of solidarity of the international working-class. We are part of this world movement. As generations of workers before us have done in our country, the working-class of the world have also written selflessly glorious and inspiring chapters of struggles that impacted positively on our lives and influenced profound socio-economic change in their respective societies. In our day, we are witnessing new challenges levelled at those who historically thrived on wars, conflicts, oppression and exploitation. These ruling forces and their agencies and their puppets, in spite of their use of new methods and intrigues against the peoples, are unable to suppress the peoples’ reinvigorated struggles erupting on all continents, or to still the peoples’ voices that demand an end to injustice, and are calling for World Peace,
deepening of democracy, end to poverty, respect for countries’ sovereignty, and consistent and focused efforts to address climate change, which is reaching a crit-
ples, especially the working-class, who are engaged in one way or another in this fight today for these causes. We hasten to add that while we support these strug-
Conclusion Comrades, on this May Day 2018, as workers, let us recognize that we need to be more assertive in demanding our rights, and insist that we be involved in the decision-making processes that impact our lives. We must speak up and speak out for democracy and justice. Today’s conditions do not call for complacency, but for greater activism. The spirit of Chicago, 1886, as well as our own rich legacy, should serve to inspire us today. Let us remember these insightful words to the world’s workers: “Workers, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains; you have a world to win”. May Day greetings to all working-people indeed, all citizens of Guyana!
ical level. We, of FITUG, express in the strongest terms, our sincerest solidarity to all peo-
gles, we must also do our share to bring about an order that places people before profits; and a world order based on peace, humane relations, and steady progress.
Long live Proletarian Internationalism! Long live Labour Day 2018!
A genuine workers’ forum
Continued from page eleven (11)
The 13-page report, among other things, addressed the situation in the world and took note of the rising global inequality and poverty, as well as the threats of a new world war and the effects stemming from climate change. It also observed the increased resistance of the world’s people to the difficulties brought about by the economic and financial crises which still linger on today. Turning locally, the report noted the change in Government in 2015, but expressed concern that the situation for the workers has not improved significantly. The General Secretary pointed out that through the presentation of four (4) budgets, the Administration, have placed greater burdens on the backs of the workers. He lamented the situation in several economic sectors which has seen a contraction of activities, and noted that it could result in an increase in poverty. The Report also touched on the costof-living situation, and drew to the delegates and observers attention the rise in the price of several important and staple commodities. The General Secretary noted that the price of utilities has also gone up in some cases, while in others, those agencies are seeking increased fees. Taking those factors into account, the Report addressed the unemployment situation in Guyana, reflecting on the findings of COMBAT 01 March - 12 May, 2018
the recently released Labour Force Survey. The situation in the sugar industry and the recently established oil industry did not escape the General Secretary’s attention as well. The report also expressed concern over the imposition of increases in the public service, and the vexing issue of crime, especially in the context of the deteriorating economic situation.
The report expressed optimism regarding the improved collaboration between the FITUG and the GTUC, but at the same time, grave worry was expressed regarding threats to our democracy and the fairly recent unilateral appointment of a Chairman of the Elections Commission was also mentioned. Following the presentation of the report, delegates and observers engaged in a spirited debate on the report’s contents, which only served to add to the richness of the report. The Conference also approved resolutions regarding the sugar industry; in solidarity with the world’s oppressed peoples and calling for world peace; calling for trade union unity; and one regarding the NIS. These resolutions will now be dispatched to relevant persons for their attention. The delegates and observers also elected a new Executive Committee, which comprises Carvil Duncan, Roxanne Gar-
raway, Michelle Henry, Michael Stephen, Bhagmat Hochand, Dawchan Nagasar, Karen Mapp, Sherwood Clarke, Jagdeo Paul, Bhajan Sukhu, Komal Chand, Seepaul Narine, Aslim Singh, Gordan Thomas, and Harvey Tambron. At the first Executive Committee meeting, elections would be conducted for officers.
The Conference concluded with the Charge delivered by Chartered Accountant Mr Nigel Hinds, who, in his presentation pointed out that Unions still play a vital role in reducing exploitation of workers. He said Trade Unions offer workers an opportunity to be justly rewarded and to have their rights respected. He urged those present that even
small things like joining a picket line or writing a letter to a newspaper to express concern make a difference, as they add up to bring about the change desired. He urged that we should not wait for some grand opportunity in the future to effect the change we desire, as the future is now. He said the workers play a pivotal role in shaping the future, and they need to act together in a progressive manner to achieve their objectives. The 6th Delegates’ Conference, from all accounts, was a genuine workers’ forum, which concluded successfully.
GAWU gets better...
Continued from page thirteen (13) Our Union will continue to exercise vigilance to ensure that the Corporation’s undertaking is upheld. The meeting, we believe, was informative, and helped us to draw a firmer understanding about what the Corporation is seeking to accomplish as it seeks to become profitable in the not-too-distant future. While pleased about what we are told, we must express our concern that a
firm plan is still not available. We neverthe-less remain committed to good faith discussions and exchanges as we share a common goal to put the sugar industry back on the right track. In the meantime, we have requested from GuySuCo/ SPU copies of the relevant studies which are guiding its investment decisions and overarching goals. We hope that our request would be positively considered, thus allowing us to be able to get a better understanding of what really would be done. PAGE FIFTEEN
GAWU President, Komal Chand, tells workers on Labour Day 2018:
Demand your rights, be involved, speak up and speak out
Introduction Comrade Chairman, on behalf of the FITUG, I extend fraternal greetings to all workers as we celebrate this important day on the working-class calendar. It is a day to demonstrate our solidarity and unity; a day that reminds us that our aspirations for a better and just society are still to be realised. Comrades, this day has evolved from a rich, inspiring chapter of the international working-class and is rooted in the struggle of 1886, when some 80,000 workers in Chicago, USA demanded an eight (8) hour working day. Based on those struggles, workers’ representatives adopted a resolution, at a meeting in 1887, for May 1st to be observed as International Workers Day. In Guyana, our celebrations began in 1930 under the leadership of Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow and his British Guiana Labour Union, and in 1958, May 1st was approved as a National Holiday.
sistent difficulties which, for very many of us, have affected the quality of our lives. Indeed, several challenges have surfaced over recent years. We have observed that the prices of several staples have risen; there are increased rates and taxes; there is a threat of higher electricity costs on account of higher oil prices; and now there are increased water rates hanging over our heads. We can neither disregard the all-pervasive VAT, as it now affects a wider range of products and even essential medical services. In the face of these burdens, it is painful to know that our pensioners, for 2018, only got an increase of just over one dollar per day.
Today marks the 60th year since Labour Day became a national holiday. Significantly, our celebrations are taking place in an atmosphere of unity of our two (2) major trade union bodies. We, of FITUG, welcome this development, as we see that unity is essential in order to effectively safeguard our gains, expand our achievements, and realize our working-class dreams.
As workers, a vexing issue to us is unemployment. The Labour Force Survey, just recently made public, identified that less than half of our working-age population is employed. It says also that youth unemployment is unacceptably high. It says that, alarmingly, 53 per cent of our people are either impoverished or are vulnerable to impoverishment. These findings cannot be comforting to us, recognizing the deteriorating conditions we now face. An expression of our slide downwards is manifested in the rising criminality, which has left many Guyanese living in fear. Once again, we call on the appropriate authorities to allay people’s fears and develop strategies to effectively contain this malady in our midst.
Local Situation As bodies representing the country’s workers, we cannot disregard the per-
At this time, we are hearing a lot about the future that beckons when we become an oil-producing nation. This could prove
to be a blessing, or, possibly, a curse. The experiences in several countries have shown this. However, we contend that oil should not displace our historical economic sectors, but should rather consolidate our economic foundation for the years and generations of Guyanese ahead. On this matter, we cannot ignore the various questions regarding the oil deal, and what it means to our patrimony. And, accordingly, support the calls for the agreement to be re-negotiated. We emphasize that in our developing state, with poverty still uncomfortably high, with our expanding social needs, and with an eye on the future, our natural wealth has a significant role in our present and future all-round development. We urge, then, that those charged with the management of our resources always bear this in mind. Sugar industry Our meeting today can also not disregard the plight that has befallen thousands of our fellow workers in the sugar industry. Theirs would be yet another sad chapter in our country’s history. Over recent months, some 7,000 sugar workers have been sent home without any plan to address their welfare. Then, to add pepper to the deep wound, and contrary to our law, some workers received only half of their severance payments, and some others at Wales none. For us, this is one of the most callous of decisions ever made in living memory. Today, many of the workers who have been placed on the
breadlin, remain right there, unable to find steady jobs and, in some cases, any job at all. The promises of saving sugar made boisterously by persons now in Government have proven to be hollow and empty. The FITUG recognizes that despite the daunting challenges, the workers did not give up hope. They demonstrated an indomitable will to stand up and to call attention to their plight, as they sought to overcome and win out in this struggle. Receiving wide solidarity and sympathy, their spirited stance, no doubt, prompted the Administration to now divest the estates, which arguably is better than closure, but is not necessarily the best solution. This experience and the workers’ struggles have much to offer to the Guyanese working-class. This experience begs the question: Is this what the future has in store for us? Comrade workers, at this time, there is apparent confusion surrounding the sugar industry. There is the risk that this lack of clarity could very well threaten efforts to improve the viability of the remaining GuySuCo estates, for which the recently announced $30B financing is intended. We repeat there is an urgent need for a workable plan involving the workers and their organizations, which will strengthen any and all efforts to attain the desired ends and goals. Continued on page fifteen (15)
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