PSC pushes for health centres to remain open in sugar belt
…to collaborate on hosting job fair in communitiesWhile remaining firm on its position to oppose the closure of the sugar industry, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) says it will now push to have health centres serving the sugar belt remained open.PSC President Eddie Boyer urged the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) not to close the health centres that serve sugar workers and their families in various communities.A section of the gathering at the forum on MondayThis call was made at the opening of a Business, Financial and Investment Forum and Clinic held at the Enmore Community Centre on Monday for ex-sugar workers.The PSC Head said that his organisation was deeply concerned about the developments taking place and would lend support wherever necessary to allow sugar workers the opportunity to get new jobs.“We are not supportive of closure. We fought that to the end and we are still fighting it. Now, I am going to ask that the health centres remain open for a long period, even when workers get their severance,” he said.Boyer added that he hoped issues pertaining to the National Insurance Scheme were also being ironed out in the transitioning process, so that workers do not lose out on their entitled benefits.In addition to that, the PSC Head stated that while there were opportunities, GuySuCo would have to assist in the process of getting some of these workers new jobs, as many of them are unskilled.“The Private Sector needs people and if we can pluck them out of here, fine. We are here because anything to do with sugar workers and GuySuCo, we will continue to be on board,” he said.PSC President Eddie BoyerMeanwhile, GuySuCo Corporate Communications Manager Audreyanna Thomas said the forum and clinic would expand to other areas in the sugar belt providing them with some support.Thomas said the event was mainly focused on helping the ex-sugar workers to decide on how they would spend or invest their severance to form meaningful small businesses and development.She said the institutions would help the workers and guide them on how best they could reinvest this “capital” (severance) they received after being fired. She said opportunities to take new and old loans would also be encouraged. This, she said, is part of GuySuCo’s Economic and Resilience programme.Several companies, including all the major banking institutions, were on the ground to assist.At the same event, Chairman of the Trade and Investments Committee of the PSC, Ramesh Dookhoo announced that his organisation would be hosting a job fair for displaced sugar workers.The first event would be hosted on Wednesday, January 31 at the Patentia Tarmac, West Bank Demerara in collaboration with the Region Three Chamber of Commerce and Industry.Dookhoo said while the fair would be primarily for these workers, it would also be opened to other persons who were generally having a tough time finding employment.He encouraged persons attending the event to walk with evidence of their academic qualifications, recommendations, NIS card, TIN certificate and police clearance.If this spin-off event proves successful, the PSC plans to host similar exercises in communities that will be impacted by the closures of sugar estates across the country.Some 20 local manufacturing and services companies are already onboard to participate in the fair. They include: National Hardware, Banks DIH, and Gafoors.In November, GuySuCo announced plans to dismiss thousands of workers. So far, some 4000-plus workers have been sent home. The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) claims that the downsizing and subsequent closure of sugar estates would lead to the loss of more than 15,000 jobs, and the potential threat of poverty for 50,000 to 100,000 people.The Special Purpose Unit (SPU), which forms part of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), has been mandated to conduct evaluations, surveys and inventory assessments before any steps were taken to actually sell the estates.The SPU has since solicited the assistance of an international financial company to undertake these assessments as part of the plans to downsize the industry. While one local company has expressed an interest, there have been no other reports that other companies here may want to buy the estates.However, Minister Cathy Hughes has been quoted in the media as saying that several international oil companies have expressed an interest in buying some of the closed estates.