Downsizing sugarAs the time draws near for the closure of two more sugar estates, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) feels that workers attached to both the East Demerara (Enmore) Estate and the Rose Hall Estate could face the same situation as Wales Sugar Estate cane cutters –they may not receive their severance package even if they refuse to be transferred.GAWU President Komal ChandGAWU president, Komal Chand, told Guyana Times on Monday that the chances of this happening are extremely high, because it does not appear that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has budgeted for the eventuality of the estates’ closure, which had earlier been announced. But more so, he said, GuySuCo did not cater for the possibility that workers would have to be transferred to estates that were out of bounds.“There is a possibility (of workers not getting severance) because it doesn’t appear that GuySuCo had budgeted (for) workers’ severance pay. They are financially broke at this point in time. One can conclude that the workers from these estates — if the closure is to be effected – can face a similar fate like the Wales sugar workers,” Chand opined.On the other hand, the GAWU president is of the view that GuySuCo could repeat what was done to cane cutters at Wales. “What can happen is (that) they can offer them work in far-flung areas, like Blairmont and Uitvlugt and those who refuse to go, ‘you don’t have any severance pay to receive’,” he stated, noting that other workers except cane cutters were provided with a severance package.Chand also drew this newspaper’s attention to the fact that GuySuCo had issued a press statement explaining that workers were refusing to work at Uitvlugt, and the Union was subsequently blamed for this situation.“If we had done that, it would have been exposed. Why didn’t we encourage the Skeldon workers to work at Rose Hall Estate and Albion? Why haven’t we discouraged the Enmore workers (from working) at Uitvlugt, because they worked there for two weeks? Planters worked there for a month,” he explained.In referring to the issue at Wales, the trade union leader said that while several workers there had their service transferred to Uitvlugt Sugar Estate, the remaining workers were promised severance payments, some since December 2016 and others by February 2017. However, it was at a community-level meeting between Wales residents and several Government Ministers that it was revealed that Government had no money to pay the severance to which the workers are entitled.The closure of Wales Estate was rationalised by Government as a cost-saving measure due to billions of dollars that were allocated to the declining sugar industry. The Government had also announced that it plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates and sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory.Many stakeholders had, however, called for social impact studies to be carried out to assess how communities across the sugar belt would be affected with these closures. Some estimates have pegged a figure of some 10,000 sugar workers being directly affected by estate closures, in addition to their family members and the local economies that depend on the sugar industry.Chand told Guyana Times that despite these impending closures, GAWU would continue to mobilise workers to take to the streets in massive protests against this move. He maintains that if the protest attracted enormous crowds like the parking meter project protests in Georgetown, it would send a strong message to the coalition Government to reverse this decision.A Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into GuySuCo had recommended that the Corporation be privatised within three years. It also recommended that a serious evaluation of all diversification options be conducted, to avoid total reliance on sugar for GuySuCo’s revenues.Along with rice and gold, sugar has remained one of the biggest foreign currency earners for Guyana.