With the aim of enlightening the Labour Department of the struggles that domestic workers face in their working environment, Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Red Thread held a special meeting with Minister within the Social Protection Ministry, Keith Scott on Tuesday.Some of the issues raised were sexual harassment, non-payment of wages, ill treatment of employees and non-compliance with labour laws.The Minister stated that Government’s policy is to have a stable industrial climate and operate within the realm of the law, highlighting that this is within the best interest of both the employer and employee.Minister Scott also noted that his department will continue to enforce strictSome of the persons present at the meetingcompliance measures with employers for the protection of every worker’s rights. In stating that the Department of Labour must be respected and that the labour laws must be upheld, Minister Scott promised that all grievances put forward at the meeting would be addressed. He also took the time to applaud Red Thread for their involvement in the pertinent issue.“I applaud the work that Red Thread has been doing from its inception. It is an example that somebody can stand up, not only for women but generally for the disadvantaged and vulnerable in the society. For too long the disadvantaged and vulnerable did not have a voice and it is commendable to see organisations partnering with the Government to give recognition and support to those persons” he stated.Subsequently after the meeting concluded, a meeting was held with senior labour officials and labour officers. Issues that rose out of the Red Thread meeting were discussed, with the aim being to resolve and correct those issues. Another objective of the meeting was to find resolutions on how to strengthen the relationship between workers, NGOs and the Government.Red thread is renowned for its service to women and children who have been exploited. Coordinator of the NGO, Karen de Souza, noted that the organisation is working to strengthen ties with the Government in order to establish the parameters in which her NGO could operate. De Souza stated that she welcomed the discourse with the Minister, where she was not only able to represent the workers but to also address other grievances. She is optimistic that the concerns highlighted will be effectively addressed in the near future.
While Government claims that the sugar industry has decreased in value from a financial outlook, Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo has positioned that the industry is a vast contributor from an economic perspective.Jagdeo, at the recent press conference, identified several ways in which the economic value of sugar is still viable, especially with the ripple effect it created in other sectors.Opposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoHe said this could have been realised earlier if Government had opted to conduct the economic feasibility study, which was suggested. The closure of the estates, he examined, came at a greater cost than keeping the factories alive.“Sugar is still viable from an economic perspective and not necessarily from a financial perspective because of the multiple benefits that are associated with sugar from the linkages to the taxes to the NIS to the drainage and irrigation services which still have to be funded.”“We argued for an economic feasibility study. This is not a financial feasibility study. This is about people’s lives, their contribution to the economy…Had they done the economic feasibility study that we had asked for, you would have seen that the cost of closure is greater than the cost of keeping sugar going,” the Opposition Leader added.A scene from one of the several protests former GuySuCo workers mounted against the GovernmentThe four estates: Wales Estate on the West Bank of Demerara; Enmore in Demerara; and Rose Hall and Skeldon in Berbice, were closed less than two years after the coalition Administration took office.According to the former Head of State, the closed sugar estates can be sold to investors but these stakeholders are not willing to make an investment presently.The Opposition Leader shared, “He [President David Granger] said people don’t want to buy the estates but they’re selling off the scraps and assets without telling us…It’s not that people don’t want to buy the estates. It’s just that they don’t want to invest now in Guyana with this bunch of incompetent people running the show.”Just last month, he had argued that the coalition Government failed to make fact-based decisions for the sugar industry. During an address to the Association of Concerned Guyanese in Toronto, Canada, he acknowledged that sugar needed transitional help but added that the Government’s approach was anything but transitional.Recently, it was announced that more than 660 hours of downtime at all of the three remaining factories in the sugar belt has resulted in the second crop production plummeting.The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) had said that the Albion Estate factory was experiencing its worse performance in the longest of time. In fact, the Union noted that the problems at that location are so acute that the Corporation has lost some three weeks of operations.According to GAWU, the performance of the factories, as it has lamented before, brings into question the efficacy of the industry’s factory operations department.“That department’s skills, we gathered, has been augmented in recent times as several new recruits were engaged. We hasten to wonder what have been their collective contributions in assuaging the situation and trying to bring some semblance to the difficulties that are being faced at this time. The situation for the Union and the workers are very much concerning and disconcerting at the same time,” the missive stated.The Union went on to point out that this situation has been especially hard for the sugar workers. It noted that the poor reliability of the factories has seen workers on many days not being offered work.It added that this makes a bad situation worse as they have been struggling with the declines in their nominal and real pay and that the inability to work every day for them and their family, especially as they approach the year-end season, must be distressing.Bearing in mind the most recent performance, the Union has now estimated that the industry’s second crop production by December 20, will reach 60,236 tonnes sugar with a total deficit of 16,107 tonnes.