GuySuCo to close LBI operations

Delegations from the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) that comprised Union officials and shop stewards of Enmore and LBI Estates met with the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) on April 12, 2016 at the request of the Corporation with respect to “finalising the integration of East Demerara Estates”.

The Corporation at the meeting informed the two (2) Unions that the company has decided to have the operations of the Field Workshop, Mill Dock, Field Lab,  Stores, and Administrative Offices that are based at LBI Estate be merged with similar operations at Enmore Estate during this year.

This announcement came as a surprise to the Unions and their delegates to the meeting. When the LBI factory was closed and its workers were transferred to Enmore factory, both Unions were assured by a member of the current Interim Management that there will be no closure of any other department after the closure of the factory. Thus, it was never expected that the Corporation under the same Management could decide to dismantle the costly buildings at LBI Estate and end the operations which it approved about five (5) years ago.

The areas that the company has indicated will be closed basically means the closure of the entire estate. LBI will thereby cease to exist. The company, in effect, is using the term “consolidation” as a guise for the complete closure of LBI.

The closure of the LBI operations would result in over 800 workers who are represented by GAWU and NAACIE being deployed to Enmore Estate. It is doubtful that the deployed workers would be offered regular and full work at Enmore as is the present case at LBI. In this regard, account must be taken that similar operations at Enmore Estate have their own full complement of employees, a situation likened to that at Uitvlugt where Wales Estate workers are to be channeled according to a statements by high-placed authorities and promised regular, permanent employment.

At the meeting the Corporation did not inform the Union when the operations are to be closed nor was vital information about the employees’ future given. It is a similar experience to that of Wales where the company, to date, has failed to provide full information on the status of the future of 1,700 workers from Wales Estate.

It is recalled that on January 20, 2016 when GuySuCo officially advised the Unions on the Wales Estate closure and in keeping with the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act Section 12(3)(b) that it would meet with the Union to fulfill the one month’s notice period regarding the workers who would be deployed to Uitvlugt Estate and those who would be made redundant. GuySuCo, however, did not meet the two (2) unions and on March 22, 2016 the Corporation informed GAWU that 105 workers are to be made redundant. Prior to the Corporation’s letter, 15 workers were deployed to Uitvlugt Estate and 67 temporary workers were deprived of their jobs without any compensation. It is to be noted that these actions are being taken before December 31, 2016 – the date announced by the Ministry of Agriculture for the closure of Wales Estate. These actions certainly violate the law and norms of such situation.

Our Unions are wary and concerned about the fate of the LBI workers. GAWU and NAACIE are hopeful that the unsavory and oppressive situation at Wales is not repeated and call on GuySuCo to revisit its decision on the full closure of LBI. The Unions reiterate its commitment to stand by the workers and will defend their rights that are protected by local and international labour laws.

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