GAWU should educate retrenched workers on managing severance money

Dear Editor,

The announcement is that terminated sugar workers will receive 50% of their severance pay later this month, and the rest sometime in the second half of this year.  This President has spoken, and that is as good as gold for me.  Yet my initial reaction was why split the severance pay into two instalments.  That is, until some wiser heads and thinking prevailed.

First, severance payments are most likely to follow the traditional form of cash and coin.  The lump sums due, whether 50% today and 50% in the future, could be several multiples of the regular individual cash inflow.  Come a particular day in January it will be cash at the counter and on demand.  This spells trouble on a couple of fronts.  There is the knowledge today that many families in named communities are due cash payments, and in some significant amount or the other.  Individuals, families, and areas are vulnerable to becoming targets of criminal calculation and criminal interest, if not opportunity: they have cash.  The greatest care and awareness, and restraint, must be practised.

Second, and it is timely to do so at this point, I would be so bold as to recommend to GAWU, the sugar workers representatives, that its embarks from this time forward to educate, counsel, and exhort its impacted members.  The union ought to have plans already and be ready to do this through a continual and comprehensive programme that emphasizes responsible and mature ways in managing the cash received.  Even with cash in hand, this must be a time of tightening and the awareness that frugality and commonsense have to be the order of the day.

Third, I hear, even appreciate, GAWU’s critical reaction to the splitting of the severance monies owed into two tranches, through its pointing to applicable law to the contrary.  Still, I believe that this division of the total payment into two and separating them by a lengthy period of time accrues to the overall well-being and financial continuity of those sugar workers let go, and their families.  There is something by way of a nest egg for down the road.  Additionally, it gives the government some room to manoeuvre and to locate the rest of the funds.

Fourth, I do not know, given the very public nature and turmoil surrounding the workers’ plight and severance payments, how this can be kept under wraps, but my thinking and suggestion is that the actual date(s) of payment should be kept as quiet as possible.  At a minimum, that date should not be announced in the media.  I think that all involved parties (GuySuCo, GAWU, and the media) should go the extra mile and do their part on this one.

Last, everyone knows that the cash is due; the cash will be paid.  As to what happens with that same cash thereafter is best planned for starting today.  GAWU should take the lead in first making this a priority commitment, and then delivering on it.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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