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Redundant sugar workers found it hard finding new jobs -ILO report

Sugar workers who were laid off by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) following the closure of several estates in 2017, found a hard time finding new jobs after they were sent home.

In a report which was compiled by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the highest continuing unemployment rates among the respondents in focus groups which participated in a survey, occurred at the Wales and East Demerara estates. There unemployment figures stood at 60% and 55 % respectively.

The report was released this week and was commissioned by the ILO , wad geared at determining the socio-economic impact the closure of the estates-Wales, Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara-would have had on the dismissed workers.

In 2016 and 2017 the government at the time closed the estates and at the time GUYSUCO was the largest employer in the country with a staff of 16,000. According to the report, around 160,000 people indirectly dependent on its operations.

Following the closure of the estates, some 5,160 persons were laid off, the majority of them being from the Skeldon estate where 1,789 persons were laid off. At the East Demerara estates, 1521 persons were sent home while 937 and 903 were dismissed at the Wales and Rose Hall estates respectively.

The report noted that following focus group interviews, it was found that the livelihoods of sugar workers who were laid off were severely compromised.” Only one respondent, felt that she was better off compared to when she worked with GUYSUCO,” the report stated.

Concerns faced by workers included feelings that they were too advanced in age to be considered by employers and this was taking into consideration the general context of wider unemployment in the country. In addition , persons were concerned that their  children were still at school, and the ability to use skills outside of GUYSUCO were also a problem for most.

 

The ILO report states that  the severance paid to a worker averaged across the four estates was G$838,177, while 17% received no severance or were yet to receive at the time the interviews were conducted.

In addition, it was stated that the loss of the majority of jobs by fathers, who are  the main providers of incomes for the households , could have, at a minimum, disrupted the relationship between communities and strong family values.

Some of the insights on the economic activities of the laid-off workers include the fact that some workers were still unemployed at the time of being interviewed, while many of those who did find new jobs were employed on a part-time or seasonal basis.

As regards the sustainability of the livelihoods of laid-off workers, the individual educational attainment of workers, home ownership and weekly income before and after termination were also taken into consideration.

According to the report, the redundant workers found it difficult to obtain new employment. “Many of those who did find new jobs were employed on a part-time or seasonal basis,” the report stated. It noted too that some laid-off workers found employment in private cane farming, some were re-absorbed by GUYSUCO, while others found different forms of employment.

The timing of the closure of the estates has been a major issue and the new PPP administration had been working to implement new strategies to keep the industry afloat. The industry has been plagued by financial issues , with its production costs outweighing returns.

As evidenced by the report , Guyana’s sugar has always been an important export sector of the Guyanese economy but it has also been characterised by a long, secular, decline over the past two decades.