Estate closures…as cane planting comes to an endThe Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) may soon close another estate as challenges in the sugar industry persist.The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), having met with more than 40 workers attached to the East Demerara Estate (Enmore and LBI Estates), has been informed that the GuySuCo management has instructed that workers must proceed with cane cutting operations at those estates, but this directive followed the disclosure that the East Demerara Estate will no longer offer work for cane planting. Some of the workers are therefore calling for severance payment, as their traditional tasks are no longer required.A delegation of sugar workers meeting with GAWU representatives on MondayGuyana Times has been told that as per norm, 20 percent of each plot is planted with new canes, and the remainder of the plot is reserved for the regrowth of old canes. However, GAWU feels that since cane planting activities have ended, GuySuCo is clearly gearing to close down operations at the East Demerara Estate.“The decision by the Corporation to end cane planting is testimony that the Estate is being geared for closure,” GAWU contends. “Interestingly, so far, no official announcement to that end has been made, either by the Government or by the GuySuCo, yet the Corporation is implementing steps indicating the estate’s closure,” GAWU said on Monday.The union says it has learnt — by way of the Sugar Corporation CEO’s request for an urgent meeting with the union to discuss the development — that GuySuCo is proceeding with plans to end cane planting at the East Demerara Estate and at the Rose Hall Estate in East Berbice.GAWU is emphasising that moves to end operations at either entity contradict the reported statements of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo when he said that sugar will not die.Earlier this month, Guyana Times was told that Enmore Estate would allegedly be closed. “Them give us a white paper at the Ministry of Agriculture, and de white paper mark that them gon close Enmore Estate after harvesting crop 2017,” a worker had informed this newspaper at one of the many protest exercises against estate closures.The operations of the LBI Estate were in 2016 amalgamated with those of the Enmore Estate, in a move which was slated to save the cane operations, according to GuySuCo. “Now, just months later, the closure of the estate operations has been initiated. It demonstrates that partial political consideration has been given by the Government towards the industry,” GAWU has claimed.Livelihoods affectedGAWU noted that the East Demerara Estate employs some 2,200 employees in the field, factory, security, administrative and managerial sections.“They and their families, among many others, stand to be affected by the harsh closure decision. We once more urge the Government to abandon this consistent anti-worker direction, given the dire consequences to a major segment of the Guyanese working-class,” GAWU admonishes.The experiences at Wales “are fresh in our thoughts, as hundreds have been placed on the breadline and have fallen into a state of despair”, GAWU declares. “Hundreds more again on East Demerara Estate seem to be destined also to go this way; and worse too, seemingly at this time are being denied their severance entitlements,” GAWU stressed.Meanwhile, workers attached to the now defunct Wales Estate gathered outside the factory gates on Monday to reiterate calls for payment of outstanding severance package benefits. This comes mere days after the workers had departed en masse from a meeting with several Government Ministers after Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan had disclosed that GuySuCo could not afford to pay workers severance benefits.Government has said the Wales Estate was closed after billions of dollars were accrued in losses over the years. At high level sugar consultations held last year with GuySuCo, the union and the Opposition, Government disclosed that only three estates would be kept functional.