Nov 28, 2017 News
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) are appealing Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George-Wiltshire’s decision to deny an application to quash the decision to close two estates– the East Demerara (Enmore) and the Rose Hall, East Berbice estates.
“Our unions contended before the learned Chief Justice that the decision to close was improper. There were insufficient consultations between the Government and GuySuCo (Guyana Sugar Corporation), on one hand, and the GAWU and the NAACIE, on the other.”
The two estates were said to be underperforming and helping to contribute to the dismal showing of the state-owned GuySuCo.
Both unions said that they pointed out to the courts that consultations with the Opposition and the Government regarding the future of the sugar industry cannot be deemed as acceptable noting that just about four hours in total were spent on the three occasions the parties met.
“GAWU and NAACIE contended that we have a legitimate expectation to be consulted in a comprehensive manner. We pointed to previous instances where GuySuCo involved our unions extensively in considering decisions which would have affected the employment of workers.”
The unions also contended that the sugar Commission of Inquiry (CoI) spent several hundred man hours over many days in reviewing information, considering submissions from several individuals and organisations, and visiting the estates and interacting with workers and managerial personnel and at the end of that process recommended that closure should not be pursued.
“Our unions contended, too, that the closure decision clearly was not informed by the full consideration of all the factors which we have pointed out especially that a socio-economic study was not pursued though it was necessary.
Furthermore, we argued that the closure decision did not follow the clearly set out procedure contained in the Trade Union Recognition Act and the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act. Our unions are seeking that the Government and GuySuCo engage in a proper and full consultation as we hold that such an exercise will result in a different decision being taken.”
The union said that recognising that time for the closure decision is quickly approaching, they intend to file submissions seeking that the Appeal Court considers the matter early.
With regards to compensation, the unions said they are also seeking the High Court intervention to have the state pay damages to the former Wales estate workers.
“In our legal submissions, our unions are arguing that the state, as the owner of GuySuCo, by virtue of several articles of the Constitution is bound to provide suitable alternative employment or income support in lieu of work to the displaced workers for the rest of their working-life.
“We have also sought that the affected workers receive a pension equivalent to what they would have received had they been employed by GuySuCo.”
Both GAWU and NAACIE are arguing that sugar workers possess unique skills which are not portable presenting a grave difficulty for them to secure employment beyond the industry.
“It is intended that similar actions would be pursued regarding the workers of Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara Estate when the decisions concerning those estates fructify. We are also hopeful that this matter would receive speedy attention given the difficult times that have beset the people of Wales.”
The two union bodies said they are fortified in their determination to protect the workers who will be affected by the plans for sugar.
“We believe that we should use every available option in our efforts to safeguard the workers, their families and their communities, who are seemingly, at this time, can be said to be up the river without a paddle.
“Clearly, it is our strongly held view, that there are no real or workable alternatives for the displaced sugar workers and they, their families and their communities will suffer tremendously from the cold-hearted approach to the industry.”
Government said that it will hold on to Blairmont, Albion and Uitvlugt estates but place Enmore, Rose Hall and under-performing, new factory at Skeldon up for privatisation and divestment.
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