President promises other half of severance for sugar workers

9 months later…as PPP supporters berate “election gimmicks”Nine months after the Government paid hundreds of workers half their severance, President David Granger has committed to ensuring that dismissed sugar workers receive the balance of their severance pay after Parliament resumes this week after its recess.The Head of State’s assurance comes ahead of the November 12 Local Government Elections as he addressed an A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) meeting at Rose Hall, Corentyne, Berbice, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).However, while he was simultaneously making his announcement on Friday, he was greeted by angry protesters representing the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), who cried out about their continuing challenges since Government closed two estates in Berbice. Party regional supervisor, Zamal Hussain told the press that they gathered to remind the President that he has an obligation to the people of Region Six.”He is here for a political activity which is to campaign for the Local Government Elections, and as such, we find it fit that we protest against certain issues; for instance we want to remind him that crime is on the upsurge in Region Six.”Hussain said too that they wanted to send a strong reminder to the President that the region has been heavily dependent on the sugar industry.“The economic situation across the entire country is coming to a halt now… we are not allowing the President to come here with his election gimmick again and to tell people to vote for his party; the one which has destroyed this country,” the PPP representative lamented.However, it was an atmosphere of stark contrast when the President addressed his supporters, observing that his Government is all for local democracy and that is why LGEs are being held for a second time under his Administration. At the same time, Granger once again criticised the handling of the industry by his predecessors. This comes almost one month after the President reiterated that his Administration has been forced to pump billions of Guyana dollars into the sugar industry to bail it out.“The sugar industry was operating on subsidies; they were producing sugar at a higher cost than they were selling it for…  we have not closed sugar, we want to have an efficient industry; one which will make money and be profitable. So we will have one Estate in East Berbice, one in West Berbice and one East Demerara,” the Head of State noted on Friday.It was after these comments that the President indicated that workers would be paid their severance.“At the beginning of the year, we said severance pay will be paid in two parts; one part in the first half of the year and the second part in the second half of the year. Next week we will go to the National Assembly to pass supplementary provisions for payment in the second half. Sugar workers are going to get their severance pay,” the President observed.Speaking on LGE, he said Rose Hall could become one of the industrial hubs of the Region, while also highlighting that the town did not support the APNU at the 2016 LGE.“You have a powerful agricultural region and you have a powerful town which could guide the commercial activity of this region…Regardless of which party they represent, you choose the person who will represent you the best,” he said.The meeting was also used to introduce the APNU constituency candidates for Rose Hall.Under Granger’s presidency, four estates have been closed by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) under the entity’s austerity measures to alleviate its cash-strapped status. After the closure of Wales in December 2016, the Skeldon and Rose Hall estates in Berbice and the East Demerara (Enmore) Estate was shuttered. The closures left thousands of workers jobless.The numbers revealed that 1851 workers were terminated from Skeldon, while Rose Hall accounted for 1181 workers being severed. There were also 1480 from the East Demerara Sugar Estate losing employment under the cost-cutting decisions.However, a small percentage of these workers were rehired under the Special Purposes Unit (SPU) as that entity kept the estates running in a bid to secure private investors.Government had acquired $1.931 billion in an effort to provide 50 per cent of severance packages to the fired workers. Some $609 million was paid out to Skeldon workers, while $705 million was paid to Rose Hall workers, and $815 million was paid to East Demerara workers. $150 million was paid out to the Wales workers over the last few years.