Jun 15, 2011 News
…as union objects to clauses in discharge agreement
Frustrated sugar workers plan to protest this morning after the anxiously awaited severance pay exercise ended before it began yesterday as their representative body, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), objected to several sections of a discharge agreement prepared by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuco). .
Kaieteur News understands that upon perusal of the document, GAWU refused to accept the terms and conditions laid out by the sugar company.
The sugar workers yesterday demanded to see copies of the ‘Discharge Agreement’ and the letter sent by GAWU to the sugar company in response.
According to a source, copies of both documents were uplifted and taken to the workers so that they “could determine the wrong party”.
The source stated that the ‘Discharge Agreement’ basically required the workers to sign that they received a certain amount of money paid to them as “redundancy allowance” and “without admission of any liability and which they thereby declare that they have accepted in full settlement, satisfaction and “discharge of all claims, demands, actions, and causes of action, which they may now or hereafter said against GuySuCo, their servants and/or agents arising out of or in connection to the workers’ employment period with the company that determined the redundancy payment including any claim made in the High Court.”
Kaieteur News understands that GAWU did not find the documentation to be appropriate and therefore responded by rejecting the ‘Discharge Agreement’ stating in a letter of response that despite the late sending of the receipt which GuySuCo issued to have the workers sign, GAWU still wishes GuySuCo to note that it is “strongly opposed to the discharge receipt you have just sent us without any opportunity for discussion”.
The response further explains that in light of the short notice given and the impossibility of reaching its members, GAWU would not consider itself bound by any such receipt, and it also said “no members signing as you now demand can bind our Union by such signature. The Union has undertaken cost on this matter and assures you that it will be reasonable in the determination thereof.”
When Kaieteur News contacted a representative of the workers, Troy Gray, he explained that after they received a feedback and the copies of the letters, they “held off the protest” for the day with hopes that the lawyers of both GuySuCo and GAWU would rectify the situation in a speedy manner.
The workers are accusing GAWU of being “scapegoats” as they are uncertain as to what caused the turn of events which unfolded leaving them in an uproar yesterday afternoon as they gathered in front of the Diamond Secondary School, EBD, the chosen venue for the payout.
Agriculture Manager of the La Bonne Intention (LBI) Estate, Anil Seepersaud, who was tasked with the job of delivering the bad news to the crowd, also felt the heat as scores of workers began to hurl insults and accusations.
While addressing the gathering, Seepersaud said “Management is very sorry about this; I am not aware what has caused this as we are informed that payment will not be made today. I am not too sure of how soon this (payment) will be made.”
Seepersaud told the media, “We are supposed to make severance payment today, unfortunately we can’t do it. I am not in a position to say why this has happened, but another date for payment will be announced as soon as possible.”
Cane & Harvesting Representative, Lucian Pear, argued “The President came at this same school (Diamond Secondary) on May 17, 2011, and said a few things and also he said that we would be given our severance pay. As of yesterday (Monday), we spoke with the Union and everything was said to be in place. All GuySuCo needed to do was get up a document to say we no longer work there and we were paid for the period in question”.
He stressed, “This is a bull ride. Once there is unity & solidarity, we can overcome it!” And with that the gathering was told to “assemble in an orderly line, very orderly, and in a disciplined manner tomorrow morning (today) at 7am to let the public know just how frustrated we are!”
One sugar worker said “We were fighting the fight to receive severance pay until the matter was taken to court. We met with the President and asked him for intervention and said then we would withdraw the court story. The President said we would get pay our money and with that we said we would stop the court story, so what happening now?”
Another worker exclaimed “We struggle this struggle by we self and now fuh we get we lil fine change, a scapegoat holding it up. When we had want de scapegoats to represent we, whey dem went? We paying them we money to represent we, yet not one, not even Komal Chand could come hey fuh address we. But when the President been hey, he mek sure he reach.”
A female worker was most emphatic in her analysis of the situation, and reflected what many were expressing throughout the afternoon.
“Dem ain’t got no work for yuh, dey stop we from working. When we show up today fuh work, dem tell we how yesterday was the last day since we getting pay we money today. We suppose to finish by today, today is de last working day, we want we money before we go back.
In fact, we just might not go back after how dey treating we”.We want we money! Somebody playing scapegoat and tomorrow morning the President will know! We struggle, let we get what we suppose to get!” (Kristen Macklingam)
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