– union says trend emerging
Protest actions by workers of the Uitvlugt Estate sugar factory, West Demerara, continued yesterday morning but it was ordered halted by the police.
According to the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the workers were adhering to the request that appropriate measures be embraced to promote social distancing while ensuring their hours-of-work remained outside the national curfew period.
“The workers who continued their legitimate and peaceful protest actions were today confronted by a contingent of police officers who instructed t
hem to end their activity. We find this development to be most disturbing as it seems attempts are being made to trample on the rights of the workers.”
Authorities, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, have banned public gatherings and ordered social distancing be maintained.
According to the union, while it is unsure of how the police arrived at the scene, the workers were most upset that their peaceful activity was abruptly and forcibly terminated.
“In recent times, we have seen an enhanced police presence at protest activities involving sugar workers and we cannot ignore that a certain trend is emerging. We certainly hope that security services are (not) being utilized to minimize workers’ voices as they seek to have their rights and gains respected.”
The police presence, the union said, followed a meeting between the union locally and the Uitvlugt estate management earlier in the day.
“At the engagement, the GuySuCo remained adamant that the workers affected be organized in two shifts though the second shift would conclude into the curfew period. It appeared that the workers and union’s concerns regarding the difficulties the workers faced on their return home during the curfew period have been ignored or does not attract the corporation’s concern.”
GAWU said that quite rationally it was felt that the workers concerns would have been taken into account.
“Moreover, bearing in mind that other sections of the workforce are already enjoying similar work arrangements, the workers affected would also be treated equitably as they merely seek to protect themselves and families from the dreaded COVID-19 virus. It sadly seems this is not to be the case.”
GAWU said that it is calling for better sense to prevail and for an amicable and workable arrangement to be arrived at.
“We believe that sober and sincere consideration of the workers views should be pursued and recognition paid to the harm they can well face at this time. Our surmounting of this difficult period can only come through our collective actions to take protective and preventative actions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and it is against such a background the workers call should be respected.”
The remaining three sugar estates of the country- Uitlugt, Blairmont and Albion- have been struggling, as sugar price remain low and the aging infrastructure, lack of finance and poor agriculture continue to besiege the industry.
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