first_imgGAWU’s 21st Delegates CongressDespite its many challenges, both globally and locally, the sugar industry in Guyana will remain alive through creative thinking, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana (UG) and historian, Professor James Rose has declared.Former UG Vice Chancellor, Dr James Rose addressing delegatesAddressing the opening of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) 21st Delegates Congress on Sunday at Bath Settlement, West Coast Berbice, Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice), Dr Rose pointed to the current challenges faced by workers arising from the global economic and financial crises and increasing poverty in the world.Delegates awarded for their long and dedicated serviceHe also noted that the sugar industry in Guyana, over its long history, has experienced many challenges, but through creative thinking, it has managed to cope and overcome the obstacles.He stressed that a similar approach was needed today and urged that all stakeholders work together.GAWU President Komal Chand expressed optimism that the industry could be turned around and placed on a sustainable footing through certain diversification initiatives.Chand said workers were the industry’s most important asset and accused the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) of an uncaring approach in recent times.He called on GuySuCo and, more particularly, the Interim Management Committee (IMC), to end its hostility towards the workers and the Union.Chand also called on workers to “stand up and defend their rights” in the face of the “massive challenges” which they were confronted with at this time, while calling for a total rejection of the reprivatisation of the industry.He reiterated the need for unity among workers, while stressing the need for support and cooperation to rebuild the industry. Chand cautioned against those who were looking to sow division among the workers.GAWU said that the delegates condemned GuySuCo for its “attack on workers’ rights and benefits which they vowed to safeguard”.“They were especially dismayed by the decision of the Corporation not to grant paid release and assist in transportation for sugar workers attending the Congress, and this they emphasised was discriminatory.”According to Chand, some workers reported that intimidating tactics were also employed by certain GuySuCo personnel to prevent workers from attending the Congress. These efforts to undermine the Union’s highest decision-making forum, he noted, were roundly condemned. “The workers also stressed the need for unity among all workers in the bargaining units of the Union and workers in Guyana generally since only through their togetherness and working-class unity, they would be able to overcome their various challenges,” the Union stated.Meanwhile, the Union elected a new 52-member General Council on Tuesday, the final day of the three-day congress.The new General Council, charged with managing the affairs of the Union, at its first meeting will elect its new executive.The Congress also “unanimously approved” nine resolutions which addressed safeguarding and defending workers’ gains in the sugar industry; rejecting reprivatisation and closure of the sugar industry; education and training; unity of the working class; the National Insurance Scheme (NIS); wage/salary improvements and Annual Production Incentive (API); solidarity with the workers of Wales Estate; the public health situation and solidarity with all working oppressed peoples as well as world peace.The Congress, held under the theme “United Struggles for Workers’ Rights, Democracy and a Secure Future”, was attended by some 500 delegates from the Union’s 14 bargaining units across the sugar belt.Twenty-three members were also rewarded for their long and dedicated service in the development of GAWU.last_img

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