Hundreds more sugar workers to be laid off

Several hundred more sugar workers are expected to be laid off from the Skeldon, Rose Hall, and East Demerara estates by next month and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) yesterday urged that the decision be reviewed.

The impending redundancies were announced by GAWU, which said that it was informed by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), which sent home 4,763 workers at the end of last year.

“These workers were mainly retained as the sugar company was seeking to provide certain services to the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA). Dismayingly, that arrangement has fallen through and the workers are the hapless victims,” the union said in a statement that was issued yesterday.

It added that the further expansion of the unemployed in the sugar belt is undoubtedly making a really bad situation even worse. “Given the absence of any plans to deal with the fallout from the miniaturisation of the industry and the fiasco that has surrounded the workers severance payment, this furthering retrenchment is heart-rending to say the least,” it added.

Sugar workers picketing at Albion in May last year.

The union, which said the process of informing the identified workers would begin sometime soon, with their redundancy becoming effective not too long from now, did not cite a specific number of workers who would be affected.

When contacted yesterday, GuySuCo spokeswoman Audreyanna Thomas said she could only confirm that additional workers were going to be laid off. Thomas added that GuySuCo was still in the process of finalising the list of workers and could not give any more definitive information on the situation, including when the workers are expected to complete their last day as employees of the sugar company.

However, a source close to the corporation related to Stabroek News that from the information he was made privy to, the figure stands around 500 and could even climb higher.

When questioned about the figures, Thomas emphasised that she couldn’t state but indicated that there are over 900 employees remaining at the three estates.

The GAWU statement added that from what has been happening, it appears as if GuySuCo and the government are not prepared and “clearly incapable” of dealing with the consequences that have stemmed from “these callous decisions they made.”

The union added that it is still not too late to reverse the decisions and re-open the estates, given the situation that is currently unraveling with the workers.

“We call on the Government as President David Granger reportedly said recently, to ‘put people before profits.’ The GAWU believes that rather than displacing the workers, the NDIA could utilise the workers services and accordingly compensate GuySuCo,” GAWU said.

“The Government needs to be constantly reminded, it would seem, of its responsibility to all its citizens, to safeguard their interests and to enhance their living standards along to the road to that promised ‘Good Life’. The treatment of thousands of workers in the sugar industry is certainly contrary to such a universally accepted practice,” it added.

Last year, with December 31st, 2017 being their last working day, more than 4,000 workers rang in the New Year without jobs. However, despite being owed severance pay, a large majority of the workers had not received their monies, with Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder stating that they would be paid by the end of January

Last Friday, a supplementary allocation of $1.93 billion was approved to assist with the payment of severance to workers who were laid off at the end of last year.

Some 1,600 workers who are entitled to severance payouts of $500,000 or less are expected to be paid by the end of this month, while the remainder will receive 50% of their severance as previously promised by the APNU+AFC government. A total of $2.431 billion is set to be paid by January 31st, with an additional $2 billion set to be paid by December 31st.

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