… slams Govt on non-existent plans for workersEven as former sugar workers continue to cry out against the continued firing of Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) workers, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) slammed the Government for not planning ahead before the closures.According to the Commission on Wednesday, the closures have not been accompanied with any plan that deals with the welfare of the workers. The PSCThe PSC during its meeting with Finance Minister Winston Jordan prior to Budget 2018reminded that back in August, it had proposed that Government enter into public-private partnerships to invest in and manage selected estates. This would have been an alternative to closing such estates.“Indeed, it was our clear understanding at a meeting the Commission held with Mr Colvin Heath-London of NICIL (National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited), that the Government had determined to pursue such an option.”According to the PSC, sugar has been the major employer of Guyanese for over a century and, until these drastic measures were taken, continued to be the largest employer of the labour force. “Yet, unbelievably, our Government has no definitive plan to neither rescue the industry nor save its workers from unemployment and from the ensuing hardship which will inevitably result.”Requesting that the closure be reviewed, the Commission asked that Government recognise the ensuing hardships being placed on the communities that depend on sugar, as well as the consequential damage to the economy as a whole.No plansDuring a press conference last week, President David Granger was put on the spot with questions as to why no plans were put in place for workers before the divestment. In his response, Granger noted that the Government, the unions, and the Corporation itself must be factored in.“There are four major institutions to be considered. One is the Corporation itself, which has not been dissolved and it still has responsibility for the industry. The other is the Government and the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for reporting to Cabinet and the National Assembly. Third, you have the workers and their representatives, particularly GAWU and NAACIE.”“As far as retrenchment or termination benefits are concerned, the Government is responsible for ensuring that the Sugar Corporation fulfils its obligations to the workers.”However, the President emphasised the work of the unit which is under the Finance Ministry and has recently engaged an international accounting firm – PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to value the land it will sell.“As far as the plan is concerned, there needs to be a lot more work from the fourth agency, what you can call the Special Purpose Unit (SPU), which comes under the Finance Ministry. That is the agency that will ensure the smooth transition of those parts of the industry which will not remain in production.”“So, I would say that the work of the SPU is still being done. They are in negotiation not only with the Sugar Corporation but also with foreign investors. And I expect that before too long, we will have a plan which will explain in greater detail how the land will be disposed of.”GAWUDuring a meeting with the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Heath-London had informed the delegation that following his assessment of the estates identified for closure and sale, he was of the opinion that they were viable.In doing so, he outlined that when certain costs were excluded from the estates’ overall expenditure, the overhead of their production were generally in keeping with international norms.In fact, the SPU Head further singled out the Skeldon Sugar Estate, dubbing it a “gold mine” which is far different from the phrases used by GuySuCo to describe the facility.It is with that in mind that the Unit has embarked on a series of initiatives aimed at resuming operations at the Estate under its management from second crop (July) next year, a release from GAWU on the meeting stated.First on this list is the reinstating of a number of displaced workers, with hopes of commencing such moves early 2018. In the early stages, the SPU would be concentrating on improving the functioning of the factories as well as to rehabilitate the cultivation areas in preparation for the 2018 second crop. On this note, GAWU pointed out that at some estates it was possible to have a 2018 first crop, which the Unit promised to look into.As such, at the meeting, it was disclosed that the two parties have submitted a budget to the Government to sustain their operations.In the meantime, however, thousands of sugar workers have been fired and are contemplating a very gloomy Christmas for themselves and their families.