125 workers of 846 likely to be fired

LBI operations shutdown– operations to close by MayThe Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) plans on completely shutting down the La Bonne Intention (LBI)LBI Estate to be completely closed by the end of MaySugar Estate and merging its existing operations with the Enmore Estate by May 31, 2016.This is according to a brief from the Sugar Corporation to Agriculture Minister Noel Holder on the integration of the East Demerara Estates.Some 125 of the 846 workers attached to LBI Estate are at risk of losing their jobs since the functions they currently carry out are expected to be merged with that of Enmore EstateThe statement explained that the LBI section has 846 employees from which 125 are duplicating functions that are currently being undertaken at Enmore. These include personnel in the Mill Dock, Field Workshop, Field Laboratory, Field Office, and Stores.The breakdown shows that 58 persons work in Mill Dock, 38 in Field Workshop and the remaining 29 is split in the Field Laboratory, Field Office, and Stores.Approximately 721 are working at both the LBI and Enmore sections, primarily in harvesting and crop husbandry areas, therefore it is presumed that these jobs are secured.GuySuCo explained that the number of employees who will be fired will be determined after filling existing vacancies at Enmore Estate; however the Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) had expressed concerns that full-time and regular employment will be unavailable.The Sugar Corporation explained to the agriculture minister that the LBI Factory was closed in March 2011 as a part of a plan to integrate the East Demerara Estates into one production entity to optimise the use of the limited pool of labour.The corporation further explained that both estates, at the time, were significantly underutilised as a result of shortage of field labour.It also pointed out that for integration to make sense, the duplicated activities (which were the remaining operations at LBI Estate) would need to be rationalised.GuySuCo said this should have been done since 2011; however because it was not completed, the results were further deterioration in the economics of the East Demerara operations.“The East Demerara Estate’s cost of production increased from US26 to 30 cents per pound prior to the closure of the LBI Factory to US41 cents per pound after the closure, peaking at US54 cents in 2013,” it stated.Consequently, GuySuCo said it behoves the current management to expedite the completion of the integration of the Enmore and LBI Estates to try and prevent sugar production in East Demerara from going out of existence in the near future.The sugar entity also noted that the Mill Dock operation is only necessary where there is a factory and in the case of LBI Estate, its existence is basically useless.“Retaining it for the past 5 years represents keeping approximately 58 persons on the payroll with no productive work to do and transporting canes from the LBI cultivation to the Enmore factory in a more costly manner,” GuySuCo said.Meanwhile, GuySuCo and the two unions are currently in discussion aimed at having the process completed by the end of May, 2016.However, GAWU and NAACIE are completely against this decision and had asserted that GuySuCo had gave its assurance that there would be no closure of any other department after the closure of the factory in 2011.Earlier this year, GuySuCo announced the closure of Wales Estate by yearend and that some of the workers would be deployed to the Uitvlugt Sugar Estate while the others would be redundant.GuySuCo and agriculture ministry are yet to devise a plan for the future of affected sugar workers.Notably, the closures of both estates follow assurances by the government that no estate will be shut down anytime soon.In fact, following the announcement on the closure of Wales Sugar Estate, government promised that no other estate would be shut down.The closures also come on the heels of a multimillion dollar Commission of Inquiry report which advised against the closure of any sugar estate or operation at this time.