Even as Enmore sugar estate workers on Thursday went on strike to protest the unsatisfactory payment of Social Security benefits, the Alliance For Change (AFC) denied it was backing restive conditions in the cash-strapped low-producing state-run Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco).

“We are definitely not encouraging the workers to strike but we are there on fact-finding missions because we are compiling a dossier of all the issues in the sugar industry so that we can also make representation to the relevant authorities to try to get improvements in the sugar industry,” said AFC executive member, Gerhard Ramsaroop.

Ramsaroop and political activist Freddie Kissoon early Thursday morning met with an estimated 100 Enmore estate workers who downed tools, demanding more sickness benefits from the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) after sustaining injuries on the job and otherwise falling ill.

Seetaram Bramnarain told Demerara Waves Online News that since he fell in a punt and severely injured his right foot on December 20, he has been paid sickness benefits for only 10 days. “Until now I can’t work and my foot swell and my whole one-side paining me,” he said. “I’m the only breadwinner for my house, I have my daughter to send to school, I have my wife to maintain, I have my bills to pay and I ain’t got any income,” he added.

Cane harvesters earn an estimated GUY$5,000 daily.

One of the workers’ representatives, Adul Rahaman Kadir, told DemWaves that NIS has been foot-dragging in processing and paying claims, in some instances taking as many as four months.

“The workers at this point in time are dissatisfied with the way how NIS is handling their situation,” he said. “It seems to me that NIS only receive this money from the employer and cannot give the workers the benefits that they need,” said Kadir.

Mohammed Ali, whose left leg has been badly injured on the job since June last year, said NIS paid him benefits for six months and then stopped doing so. “I fell down at the workplace. The board slide and I fall in the punt and it knock me on the punt edge and break down,” said Ali whose leg has been fitted with an external fixator.

AFC executive member, Ramsaroop explained that his party’s activism in the sugar belt was aimed at strengthening the voices of people who are venting their frustration over several grievances.

He explained that while his part was keen on ensuring the survival of the sugar industry as part of a long-term goal to produce ethanol, the AFC was agitating for an end to waste and mismanagement at Guysuco.

“That does not mean that you will tolerate bad practices and it does not absolve management from wasteful practices,”

Ramsaroop said fellow executive member, Moses Nagamootoo has been tasked with compiling a dossier of grievances among sugar workers. The party has already started making representations to the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) –aligned Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) to address several of the grievances.

Government has accused opposition political opposition of inserting itself into the industrial unrest affecting the sugar industry, saying that it is counter-productive and in no way mirrors the PPP’s fight during its time out of government.

source: demerarawaves

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