Union to seek court action over severance denial

first_imgFollowing months of demonstrations, the matter regarding the non-payment of severance packages to hundreds of sugar workers attached to the Wales Sugar Estate may finally be soon resolved.On Sunday, Guyana Times was informed that the workers, through their representative union, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), would soon seek redress through the courts.In addition to the Ministry of the Presidency, sugar workers protested Thursday’s sitting of the National AssemblyThis newspaper was told that in the last few days, preparatory steps were undertaken for litigation to be filed in the High Court. It is believed that action will be filed some time this week.Workers who were interviewed over the weekend informed Guyana Times that while they remain without their payments, they would continue to protest outside the Estate. Reports suggest that there will be follow-up protest actions in the coming week.It was revealed in February that the Union was considering taking legal action against the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). It is believed that some 375 workers remain without their severance packages, but the Agriculture Ministry contended that all workers who requested severance were already paid. This disclosure was deemed “misleading” by GAWU. Moreover, workers have repeatedly noted that the Ministry’s contention was indeed “misleading”.The workers’ contention is that they cannot be compelled to travel to the Uitvlugt Estate on the West Coast of Demerara, which is some 22 miles from Wales.On Thursday, sugar workers and their families protested outside the Ministry of the Presidency and Parliament Building, calling for the President and Agriculture Minister to immediately address their concerns. Workers from the soon-to-be-closed-as-well Enmore Estate joined the protest against Government’s reported intention to close multiple estates.ConsequencesRelatives of the sugar workers were also present at last week’s protests and they told this publication of the challenges they have been facing since the estate ceased operations last year.“My husband working at Wales Sugar Estate and since last year, he is not working and I have five children to go to school, where I gone get this money from? We asking the President to intervene in our matter,” Salima Bacchus had noted.“We need we children to get education; the people must get work; right now, my husband is out of job, I out of job, I have a baby to look to milk, to get porridge stuff, everything,” another mother of four noted.GAWU President Komal Chand, who was also on the picket line, described Agriculture Minister Noel Holder’s handling of the sector as “heartless”, and noted that the workers were becoming desperate. At a previous protest, the workers had told this newspaper that they were finding it difficult to get consistent employment and as such, were struggling to make ends meet. It was explained that their finances were declining, since they were unable to garner five-day-a-week jobs.“The family making out real rough; right now, money going down real low,” Festus Roberts had stated.Michael Chotoo, another protester, had told this publication that he was finding great difficulty sending his children, aged 15, 13 and nine, to school.At one of their many demonstrations, the workers had reminded that President David Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had committed their support to the sugar industry in the run-up to the 2015 General and Regional Elections. However, when Government had confirmed the end of sugar operations at Wales Estate last year, it was explained that cost was the main factor for the entity’s closure. Government has also since expressed that only three sugar estates will remain operational in Guyana.One year ago, GAWU had filed action in the High Court regarding the non-consultations of unions over the severance and redeployment of workers attached to the Wales Sugar Estate. Some 100 workers then had been promised severance packages on March 22, 2016, but were only paid some months later. The Court had determined that the unions must be consulted before the workers could make their decisions on their future.last_img

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