…picket Ministry of the Presidency, High Court
Several former workers of Wales Sugar Estate yesterday renewed calls for the Coalition Government to facilitate the payment of severance by staging protests outside the Ministry of the Presidency and the High Court.
Police officers took up strategic positions on the eastern side of the Ministry of the Presidency compound along Vlissengen Road when workers bearing placards and shouting slogans encircled an area outside. They were led by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU).
President of GAWU, Komal Chand, said that the workers took action to draw the attention of the Government that they are not forgotten.
“We have been getting promises and more promises to address the Wales workers, but nothing is coming from Government. They have waited long enough to have their concerns addressed. Government made an illegal decision and must correct it,” Chand stated.
He described the workers as the first victims of the Government’s heartless plans to minimize, irrationally, the sugar industry. They are being pressured by the state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to take up work at Uitvlugt Estate, more than 20 miles away from Wales.
GAWU is contending that GuySuCo’s demand on the workers travelling to Uitvlugt is contrary to the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act (TESPA).
In March 2017, the workers moved to the court to have their grievances addressed. According to GAWU, the importance of the matter and representations by the union’s Attorney-at-Law, several months have gone by and a date for the hearing is still to be fixed by the High Court.
In late-July 2017, workers appealed to President David Granger to intervene to have their severance pay matter settled.
The workers in their letter to President Granger shared the difficulties they face since the closure of the estate and the challenges they would have going to work at Uitvlugt.
The workers committed in their letter to President Granger that should he undertake to have the matter settled they would advise the Union to withdraw its court action.
According GAWU, the President responded to the workers in early August 2017, informing that he had referred the matter to Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder, for his attention and that the workers would hear from the Minister.
“Upsettingly, despite the President’s assurance, Minister Holder never contacted the workers and in early January, 2018 they, once again, wrote to President Granger and have yet to hear from him,” GAWU stated.
The union stated that it took note that Minister Holder informed the National Assembly on January 19 that no provision has been made for the workers since the matter is engaging the Courts.
According to GAWU, the Minister is aware of the workers’ undertaking to the President to have the matter withdrawn from the court should their request be positively addressed.
“The Minister, nevertheless, has chosen to keep the pressure on. The workers are at a loss as to the reason to further punish them and in so doing deny them their lawful entitlement,” GAWU explained.
The union noted that from all appearances, there isn’t sufficient work for the Wales cane cutters. Therefore, it is the union’s belief that should workers take up the Uitvlugt offer, apart from the hardships arising from the unconscionable distance, they would not have sufficient work which will severely impact their earnings and obviously their standard-of-living.
For the GAWU, it is disheartening to recognise the clearly discriminatory treatment that has been meted out to this group of displaced workers who are being denied their severance pay though the law is clearly on their side.
People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Member of Parliament, Juan Edghill also joined yesterday’s protest outside the Ministry of the Presidency.
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