Today (February 04, 2016), vital factory maintenance work in the sugar factories across the country and other field works were severely affected as the overwhelming majority of sugar workers struck solidly in support of the Wales sugar workers and those aggrieved residents in on-going efforts to stay the decision to close the Estate. Members of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) are engaged in today’s solidarity action which highlights the fact that workers of both Unions will have their livelihoods threatened by the Wales Estate closure.
The solidarity strike proceeded during the day with picketing exercises at the various Estates Administrative offices with placards reading “No to the closure of Wales Estate”, “Poverty, Destitution, Crime and more Unemployment for communities around Wales Estate”, “APNU and AFC are betraying sugar workers” among others. At today’s picketing exercises, workers also drew attention to the outstanding wages and API matters for 2015.
This afternoon, a demonstration culminating at the Patentia Tarmac for a Public Meeting is also scheduled. The intention by the Corporation and political authorities to shut down Wales has set in motion justifiable anxiety. Of the wider workforce who are increasingly asking: What next? Who’s next? This unconscionable blow from the authorities has only fed the alienation within the industry and will, most likely, de-motivate this sector of our productive workforce.
In our estimation, some 2,500 workers and farmers would be directly affected by the Wales Estate closure. Additionally, it is distressing to contemplate the hardship that will befall the families of those who will join the jobless. We can only begin to imagine the effects of the economic dislocation that will ensue and the repercussions it would have on the communities of the West Bank of Demerara, especially.
The intransigence, so far, displayed by the authorities is a cause for concern for workers not only in the sugar industry but workers generally. When considered against the unjust treatment meted out to the sugar workers over the latter part of 2015, and ignoring essential practices of Trade Unionism, the situation is indeed troubling.
The GAWU and NAACIE urge the Government and GuySuCo not to go down the path of closure of the Wales Estate. We are sure that is it not beyond available expertise to come up with proposals to save Wales and once more, ensure its viability. We subscribe to the belief that people and their well-being must be given priority attention.