Scores of the 350 former cane cutters from the now closed Wales sugar estate who GuySuCo says do not qualify for severance pressed their case again on Tuesday outside of the Ministry of the Presidency.
According to a release from the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the former Wales Estate workers are calling on the government and the state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo) to abide by the provisions of the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act. The union says that under TESPA these workers are entitled to severance as the offer of positions at the Utivlugt sugar estate breached the provisions of the severance law. This matter is also before the court.
The GAWU statement said that the workers had recently written again to President David Granger, the second time in recent months, seeking his intervention in having GuySuCo settle its obligations to the 350 workers. In his initial response, the president had committed that Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder would examine the matter and they would hear from him. Several months have passed, and not having heard from the Agriculture Minister, the workers wrote to the president again, and are still awaiting a response.
According to the union’s release, the workers are aware, through press reports, that Minister Holder had expressed the view that the matter should be determined by the judiciary, while the workers are contending that that is unnecessary given the unambiguity of the relevant legislation. Meanwhile, GAWU is calling on the minister to carefully reexamine the matter.
The release also said that the workers were disturbed that GuySuCo’s acting CEO, Paul Bhim had been reported in the press as saying that should the workers fail to report to Uitvlugt Estate, though it is beyond the lawful radius set out in the severance Act, they would be deemed as having self-terminated. According to the union, the workers were upset by these comments and view them as another ploy to pressure them to begin working at Uitvlugt Estate, where, in their opinion, there is insufficient work for them and the cane cutting force at that estate.
The GAWU release reiterated that the government and GuySuCo’s plans to make Wales Estate the launching pad for its non-sugar diversification, despite the union’s reminder of the failure of the last foray, have been short-lived and abandoned. The possibilities of resuming sugar production remain challenging, as many important factory components have been removed and installed at other estates. The union said that despite announcements that the factory was old, the transferred components had performed well.
The union’s media release reminded that a large void has been left at the communities that were linked with the now closed Wales Estate, and many hundreds of former workers at the estate remain jobless and are facing a difficult future.
Today a large void has been left at the communities that were linked with the now closed estate, the union said. For many of the hundreds who were employed they remain jobless and those who secure jobs, generally on a temporary basis, find their earnings far less than what they earned when they worked at Wales.