Guyana Politics: Jagdeo’s attack on GAWU

Guyana Politics: Jagdeo’s attack on GAWU

Feb 22, 2018 Kaieteur News –  Editorial 

The past few weeks have been a trying period for the sugar workers and their union, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU).The closure of four sugar estates by the government was criticized by the political opposition, unions, especially GAWU and sugar workers.

For years, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) was kept afloat by billions of dollars in subsidies from the government. Since taking office in May 2015, the Granger Administration pumped some $32 billion into GUYSUCO.  

Komal Chand – GAWU

Then came the meeting between the Head of State and GAWU. Head of the union, Komal Chand reported that the union had a successful meeting with President Granger and the government on severance pay and job opportu

nities for the affected sugar workers, enraging Jagdeo who criticised Chand. Were it within his power, he would have sacked Chand.  However, in spite of Jagdeo’s pique, Chand has vowed to continue to engage the government on issues affecting the sugar workers who are reeling from the closure of estates.

According to Chand, Jagdeo’s criticism was the first kiss of betrayal from the PPP leadership and union members, most of whom are supporters of the PPP. The betrayal of GAWU by Jagdeo and the PPP leadership mirrors what Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve original disciples, had done to Jesus, according to the New Testament.

In that Biblical story, Judas is known for the kiss of betrayal of Jesus to the Sanhedrin for 30 silver coins. In GAWU’s case, it was the betrayal of the union by Jagdeo over a meeting with the government concerning the affected sugar workers. Jagdeo accused the union of bargaining away the rights of the sugar workers.

GAWU is no stranger to engage governments on issues affecting sugar workers. During its years of representation of sugar workers, GAWU engaged every Head of State from the late Forbes Burnham to President Granger. Chand, a long-time supporter and a PPP Member of Parliament reprimanded Jagdeo and chose to stand with the sugar workers affected by the estate closure over party politics.

Chand believes that Jagdeo who was President for over a decade, should have known the nature and magnitude of the problem. He believes that the union must use every arena and leave no stone unturned to safeguard the interest of the sugar workers.

Despite his criticism of GAWU’s leaders, Jagdeo did not want to be seen as being antagonistic or unsympathetic to the cause of the sugar workers or being aligned to any alternative motives that could affect their future.

The fact that the executive of GAWU had received a mandate from its members to negotiate their severance pay with the government has nullified Jagdeo criticism of GAWU who sees politics as a zero sum game.

Certainly this was not the kind of support that GAWU had expected from Jagdeo and the PPP leadership of which he is a part. But where GAWU is concerned there is much more than its political alignment with the PPP. It is the affected sugar workers interests and their future that are at stake.

While many sensed the hostility between the PPP and GAWU and between Jagdeo and the old guard at Freedom House, Jagdeo was quick to point out that there is no such hostility at Freedom House or between the PPP and GAWU. Criticising GAWU was a colossal mistake by Jagdeo because according to its president, the union was acting on the command from its general membership and therefore, there was no need to consult the PPP or the opposition leader, or anyone else.

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