GAWU meeting laid off sugar workers on way forward

With no definite indication of when the remaining laid off sugar workers will be paid their severance, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) says it will be meeting with workers to decide on their next course of action.

Speaking to Stabroek News, President of GAWU, Komal Chand said that despite government officials asserting that the workers would be paid this month, no positive assurance has been given by either the Government or the sugar company about a definite date.

“We are calling on them to make available the money because GuySuCo reported to us that they don’t have money and they requested the payment for about $5 billion,” Chand said, while pointing out that the Union is particularly concerned about the date when the workers will be paid, since some of them were slated to have received their money last month.

As a result, Chand explained that the Union will be meeting with the ex-workers from all of the estates over the next few weeks to find out what they want the next step to be.

“We are consulting with them and we had a meeting (yesterday) with Rose Hall and all of the ex-employees, the first meeting,” Chand noted. However, he related that he did not want to make any pronouncements on what the workers at Rose Hall said. He added that at the end of meeting all of the ex-workers from the different estates, the union will decide what actions to take next.

“They were hoping to get their money the latest before the end of the year and they ought to have gotten their money when one’s month notice expired. Most of their notice expired on the 29th last month and they badly need their money,” Chand asserted.

“Now they have to consider other means of voicing concern, maybe further picketing and further demonstration in voicing their opinions and the Union will support them. We will support our members and give them whatever leadership they need,” Chand restated, while indicating that the Union will support whatever actions its members want to be taken even if it is protests.

When contacted, GuySuCo was also unable to give any definitive assurance on the date when the workers would be paid their severance. However, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the sugar company, Audreyanna Thomas stated that the employees who have been made redundant will be paid their severance in the same way they have been paid their wages and salaries while they were working for GuySuCo.

“GuySuCo undertook a process and severance is part of that process and they must be sure of that and must not be misled by GAWU,” she said, while charging that the Union was playing on the fears and vulnerability of the laid off workers.

GuySuCo had confirmed with Stabroek News that by the end of the year, some 4,000 sugar workers would be made redundant at the Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara estates.

While some of the retrenched workers have been paid their monies, a large portion are still waiting. This, the Union said, is already starting to have a negative impact on the lives of the workers given that the Christmas season has just passed. Now the workers are left to face the New Year without a job and without the monies they have earned throughout their years of service to the sugar corporation.

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