Jan 05, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – The state-owned holding company – the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) – on December 31, 2020 fired, “without the hint of warning”, approximately 60 workers who were employed by the state-owned company at Wales Estate. This is according to the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU).The estate was closed in late 2015.
The workers were mainly engaged in providing security as well as other labouring tasks.
“The sudden termination dumbfounded the workers who were completely unprepared for the bombshell announcement,” GAWU said in a statement.
“The workers, during last year, had approached the GAWU to speak on their behalf. The union on November 06, 2020 applied to the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board (TURCB) seeking to be recognised as their bargaining agent. Following receipt of our application, the TURCB approved the conduct of a survey, in keeping with the Trade Union Recognition Act.”
GAWU said that the survey sought to determine whether the union enjoyed the workers’ support.
However, the union said, NICIL appears to have other ideas.
“Attempts to commence the survey were short-circuited by the NICIL which, on two occasions, did not turn up for meetings organised by the TURCB to commence the process. Subsequently, NICIL, by letter of December 11, 2020, wrote the TURCB seeking to commence the process, strikingly, on December 31, 2020. The Board, having considered the letter, had acquiesced to the request.”
GAWU said that it is convinced that NICIL never had intentions to have a union represent the workers.
“But as hindsight has now revealed, it appeared, that the letter was, seemingly, a deliberate ploy to thwart the workers attempt to secure a union of their choice. The action of NICIL brings back painful memories for the union which faced similar challenges as it confronted the plantocracy in seeking recognition on behalf of the field and factory workers in the sugar industry.”
The union noted that it is unbelievable, that in this 21st century, workers must still face such travails to secure union recognition.
“Worse yet, such actions are initiated by a company that is owned by the state. The GAWU, earlier this morning, wrote TURCB Chairman, Dr. N. K. Gopaul to apprise him of the developments. In our correspondence, we pointed out that the actions of the NICIL are in grave contravention of the Trade Union Recognition Act. Moreover, we noted that the Act has identified such conduct as criminal and we sought the Board’s immediate intervention to apprehend the matter and ensure that the workers’ rights are upheld.”
The union said that it finds the actions of NICIL to be deeply disturbing.
“For the workers, given the depression that has gripped Wales since the estate was closed at the end of 2016, it represented a cherished source of sustenance. We are aware of the efforts of the incumbent administration as they seek to breathe life back into the former estate communities and the actions of the state-owned holding company, in our view, serves to gravely undermine those efforts.”
Meanwhile, NICIL, in a statement yesterday, said that as a state institution, it was integral in following through on the Government’s vision to revitalise the sugar estates and in so doing handed over the vested estates – Skeldon, Rose Hall and Enmore Estates – with effective date from September 30, 2020 to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
“Government’s initiative for the Wales Estate was addressed under the creation of a flagship project captioned, ‘The Wales Development Authority (WDA)’. This project will represent a new era in agricultural development and will see the employment of modern economic models across various sectors.”
NICIL noted that the Wales Development Authority will be a new area of development that will benefit from special incentives and from a special tax regime to motivate investors in manufacturing, industrial development, warehousing, connectivity and wharf development.
“NICIL therefore sought to reorganise its operations across its varied locations, given that from 2017 most of the equipment and machinery of the Wales Estate were transferred to other estates to enhance their operational efficiency and optimise their operations. Other remaining assets were utilised in NICIL’s Rice Cultivation Project, which was discontinued in October 2020 given that it was not feasible to continue thereafter.”
NICIL explained that it maintained 49 fortnightly paid workers as at December 31, 2020.
“These workers were deployed in various fields including Administration, Compound Maintenance, Field Workshop, Agriculture with Security workers making up the majority of workers, namely 32 workers on record.”
NICIL disclosed that the security workers were allowed to secure employment through the recently engaged private security company and the other workers would be contracted as necessary on an ad-hoc basis to provide maintenance services on the estate.
“At the time of NICIL’s receipt of a letter from Trade Union Recognition & Certification Board (TURCB), plans were already in train to effect the transfer of the Wales Estate to facilitate the creation of the Wales Development Authority. NICIL’s actions to separate from fortnightly paid workers were in full support of its intent to ready the estate for the ultimate transition.”
NICIL said it would have further facilitated the employment of several workers by referring them to the independent security company, which is now tasked with securing the immovable assets of the Wales Estate during this brief transition phase.
“NICIL remains committed to working in tandem with Government’s vision for furthering the developmental goals of Guyana,” the NICIL statement said.
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