…says decision “unwise”Terming the Government’s decision to close more sugar estates as “ill-considered and a major blunder,” the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) on Tuesday called for the ‘White Paper’ on the sugar industry to be urgently debated in the National Assembly.GAWU said in a statement that the new policy, if implemented, could harm hundreds of workers and their families, arguing that consultations with those directly involved with the industry was not done in good faith and none of the recommendations were taken on board.“Our Union calls on the Administration and the sugar company (GuySuCo) to undo all steps taken or halt those that are about to be taken in implementing the direction for the industry as outlined in the ‘state paper,’ the statement said.GAWU also took umbrage with Government for not taking on board any of its recommendations that were presented in a 12-page paper, which was shared with them in February this year. The Union claims the suggestions offered the industry a good possibility to overcome its challenges and remain sustainable.“The paper does very little to quell our strong and significant concerns about the plans for sugar which we have registered with the Government and have shared publicly as well,” referring to the ‘White Paper’ that was laid in the National Assembly on Monday.The Union also condemned the Government’s proposal to close the Enmore and Rose Hall estates, and replace their operations with non-sugar ventures.“As Wales’ experience has shown us nothing is being done in this direction but hundreds are left high and dry without a clue of what their tomorrow will bring. We ask again how any Government can bring itself to condemn thousands of its people to such misery and hardship?” However, while the Government has revealed plans to retain as many workers as possible following the closure of these estates, and the sellout of Skeldon Factory, the Union said Government must remain cognisant of the fact that GuySuCo is the country’s single largest employer.“This is a fact that should not be lost in the debates and discussions that will ensue. We wonder given an environment of reducing job opportunities and increasing unemployment how ‘prudent’ are the thoughts contained in the paper presented,” the statement added.Holding Government to its word to demonstrate prudent management of public resources, GAWU said this recent policy decision taken in the sugar industry reflects an “imprudent decision.”“We see the plans for sugar exacerbating the already trying social situation in our country. The problems that will be spawned from the ideas contained in the sugar paper will require large sums from the Treasury to address and remedy and seems to be most imprudent,” the Union said on Tuesday.While admitting that there was a 14 per cent decline in land productivity and a 10 per cent decline in factory productivity, GAWU said it is “disheartening” that Government cannot come to grips with the challenges in the industry, claiming that the Administration lacks the will to make practical changes.Meanwhile, GAWU also challenged Government’s statement, which said there was a decline in the industry’s workforce between 2006 and 2015.The Union reminded that the industry’s mechanisation programme was intended to address that issue and that significant sums have already been invested by GuySuCo to convert its fields for mechanical operations.GAWU said it not only wants the matter to be debated, but discussed among the workers and their representative organisations in the industry. The Union also affirmed its position to have affected workers receive their normal work or paid in lieu of work, in the event that Government moves ahead with its decision.