More than 200 Wales cane cutters and supporters rallied outside of the Ministry of the Presidency yesterday to protest the non-payment of severance pay to workers by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
The 200-strong group was representative of the 350 cane cutters who say they were made redundant in December 2016, when the Wales Estate was closed.
The group later took their protest to the High Court, where the matter was filed last March, but is yet to be heard by a judge.
“For some strange, unknown reason, the matter has not come up yet for hearing in the court… they are frustrating a matter where clearly, the employers are acting in an illegal manner,” Seepaul Narine, General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural General Workers Union (GAWU) said.
“…We are here peacefully asking the government and GuySuCo, please give the cane cutters their severance pay; they deserve it. Other estates close, everybody get they severance pay. Wales is the first estate that close—all other categories at Wales receive they severance pay. What about the Wales cane cutter?” Ricky Rambeer, Field Secretary for the Wales and Uitvlugt estates questioned.
President David Granger was reportedly written to last July to intervene, but was said to have referred the matter to Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder. The workers having not heard from the Minister, wrote to the President again in early January.
GuySuCo has claimed that there are provisions for the cane cutters at the Uitvlugt estate, located more than 20 miles away from Wales. Rambeer pointed out that the workers are protected by the Termination of Employ-ment and Severance Pay Act (TESPA), which prohibits transfers more than 10 miles away.
Furthermore, head of GAWU Komal Chand opined that there is insufficient work at the Uitvlugt estate as during last year’s second crop, harvesting finished several weeks before the end of the crop, and workers resorted to assisting with harvesting at the East Demerara Estate.
“For the GAWU, it is disheartening to recognize the clearly discriminatory treatment that has been meted out to this group of displaced workers who are being denied their severance pay though the law is clearly on their side. The sad situation has been prolonged for too long and our Union joins with the distressed workers and their families to demand that GuySuCo honour its obligations to them.” a statement from GAWU said.
This is the second consecutive day that former Wales sugar workers have been pressing for severance.