Sugar workers earned severance and there is no room for prevarication

Dear Editor,

Sugar workers whose jobs were mercilessly ripped from them by APNU+AFC are legally entitled to their severance payments, having earned it by sweat and blood, none of them are asking for a handout, only what they are legally entitled to. The government, through GUYSUCO, was required by law to make those payments immediately after they ripped away the jobs from sugar workers. There are no “ands, ifs, buts”, no room for ambivalence, no room for excuses, pay the sugar workers their severance with interest now.

Instead of telling the sugar workers when they will be paid their overdue severance, behind their backs, President Granger tells his supporters that paying sugar workers is “haemorrhaging” the treasury. In doing so, he abrogates his responsibility to uphold the laws of Guyana. Instead of sitting with his Finance Minister and his Cabinet to determine a way to meet this legal expense, he makes another arrogant excuse. Clearly, paying the sugar workers their legally entitled severance is too painful for President Granger. In fact, when the decision was made to close four sugar estates, he was obligated to find a way to make the severance payment with immediate effect. Failure to do so then and failure to still do so now is reckless, unlawful and is misconduct in office.

The President did not have the decency to meet with sugar workers and tell them that they are “haemorrhaging” the treasury. He has steadfastly and egregiously refused to meet the sugar workers. Yet behind the backs of sugar workers, in front of his own supporters, the President constantly bemoans the fact that his government must pay sugar workers their severance. Clearly, he considers the payments unfair and undeserving. The President could think what he wants, the fact does not change – sugar workers earned severance and there is no room for prevarication.

As President Granger, his prime minister, and their cabinet continuously complain of the money the government has to invest in sugar, they conveniently ignore that sugar pumped close to $100B into the treasury to support government expenditures during the 1980s, including expenses to subsidize bauxite, pay public servants etc. Even now, sugar pays billions for non-sugar drainage and irrigation. Investments to support sugar are not a handout or a subsidy, as this government wants people to believe and a lie they deliberately have promoted to their supporters. They have demonized sugar and the sugar workers.

Since 2014, APNU+AFC has collected more than $150B in new revenues. This year alone, they are likely to collect $70B more than they did in 2014. In fact, the GRA boasts that in the first half of 2018, they have collected more than $8B than they did in the same period in 2017. How then is the severance that they legally owe the sugar workers a drain on the treasury? Is the additional $1B paid to themselves in the cabinet in bigger salaries this term also “haemorrhaging” the treasury? Just two weeks ago in his press conference, President Granger assured the nation that the significant pay increases for the APNU+AFC cabinet has no impact on the treasury. But paying sugar workers their severance is a “haemorrhage” on the treasury. This is elitist and discriminatory.

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Leslie Ramsammy

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