…re-hiring of displaced workers in pipeline for 2018The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) is fighting to keep the sugar industry alive, even as Government and the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) continue to hold out that terminating sugar production at severalGAWU representatives meeting with officials of the Special Purpose Unit (SPU)hubs across the country and dismantling the estates for parts are in the best interest of the country’s economy.On Thursday, just days after more than 1500 sugar workers were issued termination letters, a team from GAWU met with officials attached to the Special Purpose Unit (SPU), and the two bodies have come to a consensus that the sugar operations are indeed viable, especially when measured against closing the estates and leaving hundreds jobless.This deliberation was the result of a request by GAWU to meet with the SPU — which falls under the jurisdiction of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) — regarding plans to assume managerial responsibility for Skeldon, Rose Hall, East Demerara and Wales by the beginning of next year.During that meeting, SPU Head, Colvin Heath-London, informed the GAWU delegation that following his assessment of the estates identified for closure and sellout, he is of the opinion that they are viable.He outlined that that when certain costs are excluded from the estates’ overall expenditure, the overheads of their production are generally in keeping with international norms.The SPU Head has singled out the Skeldon sugar estate, dubbing it a ‘gold mine’ – a term different from those used by GuySuCo to describe the facility.The SPU has embarked on a series of initiatives aimed at resuming operations at the estate under its management from the second crop (July) of next year, a release from GAWU on the meeting stated.First on this list of initiatives is the re-instatement of a portion of the displaced workers. There is hope that this initiative would commence early in 2018.In the early stages, the SPU would be concentrating on improving functioning of the factories and rehabilitating the cultivations in preparation for the 2018 second crop. GAWU has pointed out that at some estates it is possible to have a 2018 first crop, and the SPU has promised to look into this.It was disclosed that the two parties have submitted a budget to the Government to sustain operation of the Skeldon estate.Also discussed was an impending agreement with Pricewaterhouse Coopers to be engaged in conducting a valuation of the assets of the estates and preparing a prospectus for investors who may be willing to invest in the operations.GAWU has underlined that with rehabilitation works ongoing, the value of the estates could very well improve, and the SPU has concurred with that observation. The Unit then advised that it would continue to operate the estates until such time that suitable buyers could be found.Meanwhile, directing attention to the Wales Sugar Estate, the SPU has indicated that the factory was largely cannibalized, and therefore diversification into non-sugar crops would have to be pursued; while investors would be sought after in this regard as well. In terms of the Wales cane farmers, it was indicated that the Unit is working along with them to find ways, to continue in cane production and to transport their canes to Uitvlugt Estate.With these agreements in place, both parties are convinced that the meeting was fruitful, given that they now possess a clearly mapped out plan as they forge ahead into the future of the sugar industry. However, the proposals are still threatened by Government intervention, given that newly approved Budget 2018 makes no provision for such grand plans.