A report on page 14 of the Sunday edition of the Guyana Times (Jan 14) captioned ‘50% severance payment not enough –GTUC’ refers. As a Vice- President of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), I would like to make it pellucid that the executive of our organization never had any discussion on the closure of the sugar estates and the effects same would have on the workers and the economy, among other things.
Even though severance payment is earned consistent with the Employment and Severance Pay Act, there could be circumstances which may well determine if an employer has the means to make a one-off payment. What is honourable and quite clear, is the present government’s public declaration that the sugar workers will be paid half their severance now and the other half later in the year 2018. A public statement was made, thereby cementing a guarantee, which is much more than some labour organizations can match, since they owe many of their retired staff severance and salaries earned. Many years have passed and they are still to be paid.
The GTUC needs to have internal discussions as a collective, then have discussions with FITUG, followed by a joint press release, if necessary. However, one ought not to forget that under the previous government FITUG was treated royally. What is also worthy of note is that under the same government, when the bauxite industry was being dismantled the affected workers did not receive their severance immediately. What they got was the money from their pension plan.
With Rusal, a former Chief Labour Officer was employed there as a labour consultant who seemed bent on ensuring that there was a counter to every labour violation that the workers objected to.
The former government stopped the Critchlow Labour College subvention but ensured that GAWU got a subvention for their Labour College in Kingston, George-town. Under the PPP government there were many labour violations, including the three mentioned above, and ironically with its open assault on labour and the GTUC in particular, FITUG was silent.
In closing, I would like to see the same passion displayed on behalf of the Guyana Postal and Telecommunications Workers Union members (An affiliate of the GTUC), who are presently fighting for their very survival.