A move by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to pay pensions through the bank, in a bid to improve security and its financial systems, resulted in a protest by the pensioners yesterday.
Retired employees of the sugar company gathered in front of the LBI Community Centre on the East Coast of Demerara to protest the change in operations.
A statement from the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) said, “The pensioners are extremely dismayed by attempts by the state-owned sugar company to demand that their pensions be sent to the commercial banks for payments.”
Currently, the pensioners would collect their weekly or monthly earnings from payment centres that are situated close to their homes and the new system would see them having to travel to the nearest banks to uplift their monies.
The union added that the ex-workers are “strongly contending” that the spontaneous change in the payment method would place an additional burden on the former workers.
“For instance, they would be required to travel to the nearest bank to collect their pension sums which for some of them is a very meagre amount to begin with. For those pensioners who do not have bank accounts, we need not explain the travails one has to go through now-a-days to open an account,” the statement said, while adding that some of the pensioners have related to them that they lack essential prerequisites that they would need to open a bank account, including a TIN certificate or proof of address, since some of them are residing with their children.
GAWU further stated that some of the pensioners aren’t able to open a banking account and that the new arrangement “is being imposed in circumstances of rising crime where the aged and pensioners are also vulnerable, a factor to be consider and not to be easily dismissed.”
The statement went on to say the treatment of the former sugar workers who dedicated their energies to help build the industry and the nation by extension is disheartening and that they are urging the sugar company to seek to alleviate and not aggravate the challenges of the former workers.
However, GuySuCo Public Relations Officer Audreyanna Thomas said that security is one of the main reasons why the company decided to change their payment method.
“One of the reasons is security, as an increased security measure for both the corporation and as well as for the pensioners. And this is not to be applied to pensioners alone but we are hoping to apply this system across the board for all employees. So, we are moving away from the system where you have to deal with a lot of cash in hand as part of upgrading our financial security and to minimise risks as it relates to how we manage our financial transactions,” Thomas said.
She added that they are also trying to improve and modernize their financial systems.
She said any pensioner who is having issues can visit the Human Resources Department at the LBI headquarters where assistance will be offered.