Government has assured that over 4,000 sugar workers made redundant in the last few weeks will be paid in the New Year.
Responding yesterday to questions, Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder, disclosed that the matter was discussed at a recent Cabinet meeting where a decision was taken to have monies released next month.
The news would come as workers and their unions complain about the silence of the administration on the severance pay which would amount to billions of dollars.
The state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) does not have the money to pay the workers of the three estates – Rose Hall, Skeldon and Enmore- who have been sent home.
The three estates located in Berbice and Demerara are up for privatization and divestment and almost 4,000 workers have been given letters by GuySuCo informing them that their positions are being made redundant.
The three estates, together with Wales, West Bank Demerara, are being placed in the control of a Special Purpose Unit (SPU), which will oversee the process to find investors.
GuySuCo, which has received over $30B in bailouts over the past two-plus years of this administration, is facing its lowest production in years and now has to compete on the world market, after losing its European preferential market.
Yesterday, the workers’ largest bargaining union–the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) said it was dismayed and surprised to learn during an engagement with GuySuCo on Wednesday, that the company has absolutely no monies to pay the some 4,000 sugar workers whose jobs have been deemed redundant at Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara Estates.
“Those workers last working day will be on December 29, 2017 and the affected workers expected to receive their payments at that time to sustain themselves and their families during the difficult period brought about by the harsh and heartless plans for the sugar industry,” GAWU said.
The union stressed that GuySuCo’s admission is in complete contrast to what Government officials have been saying over the past days.
“We drew to GuySuCo’s attention, for instance, that Minister of State, Joseph Harmon pointed out that a significant chunk of the state support flowing from the 2018 Budget was intended to offset the severance payments to the redundant workers.”
The corporation, however, clarified this was not the case and the $6.3B allocation was intended solely and wholly to support the operations of the three estates that would remain under GuySuCo’s control.
“We also queried about the $2.5B loan the corporation recently obtained. GuySuCo advised that the sum was intended to sustain its operations until the 2018 first crop commences. We noted that the corporation’s explanation was vastly different from what we read in the press. The December 7, 2017, Guyana Chronicle reported GuySuCo Chairman, Professor Clive Thomas as saying that “the sugar company has been able to negotiate for an advance on a temporary loan from a local bank to the tune of $2.5billion.
“That would not only assist in paying the workers their severance, but aid in covering the company’s expenses for the remainder of the year.” GAWU noted that Thomas, in that article, went on to say “workers will receive their severance by December 31”.
According to the union, GuySuCo claimed that it had advised the Government of the need to finance the payments and a preliminary figure was submitted.
“And, then a few days ago, an updated figure to meet the payment was submitted to the administration. The recently submitted figure, GuySuCo informed, was still not final as the Corporation’s audit department was examining the data.
When pressed, GuySuCo said the audit process would be completed sometime in January, 2018 and, thereafter the final sum required from the Government would be submitted.”
At that time, GAWU said, the Government would have to consider the request and, in all likelihood, approach the National Assembly for a supplementary allocation in order to meet the expenditure.
“That aspect will take a few weeks at least and seems that the earliest the workers would be paid could very well be towards the end of February, 2018.”
The union said that the admission by GuySuCo only serves to make matters worse as the beleaguered workers are now being told that they have no job and will not receive their legally entitled severance payments when the Corporation “kicks them out on to the road” on December 29, this year.
“This for the GAWU is most upsetting and only serves to rub salt in the wound. Our union, in view of the Corporation’s depressing information, has requested that GuySuCo retains the workers in suitable employment until it is in a position to honour the workers severance payments.”
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