January 14, 2020 | mfhfzdun | No Comments
Closure of Wales EstateBy Shemuel FanfairEven as the interim injunction that has barred the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) from dismissing or redeploying sugar workers attached to the Wales Sugar Estate at Wales, West Bank Demerara, remains in effect, some 106 sugar workers insist they should be paid their severance packages.On Monday, some 40 disgruntled workers met with operatives of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) to address their concerns. Speaking with this publication after the meeting, workers related they were told that they would have been receiving severance packages on May 6.“GAWU President Komal Chand”Now that nearly two weeks have passed, workers expressed concerns that the sugar corporation has not been giving them employment, which has rendered many jobless for the past month.Following their meeting with GAWU Monday, it was explained that the High Court injunction issued on May 6 does not bar GuySuCo from paying severance.“When we went on Friday they (GuySuCo) told us that the union has filed an injunction blocking the payment for us but when we look at de injunction that file, it did not block payment for severance pay, it block de GuySuCo for the negligence of not [involving] the unions,” stated Cyril Joseph, a father of three who has 35 years of service with the sugar corporation, stressed that many workers have mortgages and bills to pay and need the money.Shafiq Khan, working in Mech Till Gang for 24 years, told this publication that his department was told since early February that estate would no longer require their services and that they would be paid off.Following a series of meetings, the Mech Till workers finalised their severance agreements with the sugar entity: “They stop we from work over bout month-and-a-half now… we aint know what to do; we aint know who ah telling lie and who ah telling right. We come to GAWU to figure out [this] thing. [GAWU President] Komal Chand ah telling we that dem nah stop nothing and dem going to try to leh we get pay as early as possible. I know that Mr Granger [the President] is a good man and [he] can look into this matter.”Meanwhile, a visibly frustrated father, Wilbert Damon, who had earlier told this newspaper that his transferring to Uitvlugt would be unsafe for his family, said on Monday that after so many years, workers should be treated with “dignity”.“Someone in GuySuCo [should] come out and treat us with dignity – if somebody served for 30 years, you [should be] glad to honour them. Give them something good that they could feel good at the end of the day,” Damon explained in reference to him receiving his severance.Guyana Times was told that on Friday last workers were ready to protest at Wales Estate after GuySuCo was late in the payment of salaries and non-payment of severance packages.Meanwhile, the union is still deciding on its next steps of protesting the closure of Wales Estate. GAWU President Komal Chand told Guyana Times on Monday that sugar workers received letters from GuySuCo stating that they would in fact receive their severance payment.“They got a letter from GuySuCo stating that they would receive severance pay, having received one month’s notice,” Chand said. He also confirmed that “nothing in the injunction” bars the sugar corporation from paying severance.It was on May 6 that GAWU and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) through their attorneys stopped GuySuCo from proceeding to implement their decision to sever the employment of workers of the Wales Estate, rendering them redundant unless and until they hold consultations in accordance with section 12 of the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act Chapter 99:08.One legal luminary had explained that the corporation is “legally bound” to hold all negotiations relating to workers and their welfare, with their recognised unions, which in this case would be GAWU and NAACIE.If it is agreed that severance is the best option then negotiations on the severance package, calculations will commence after discussions with GuySuCo and the two unions, the legal expert explained.The closure of the estate by yearend will affect some 1700 workers directly and thousands of persons in the Wales and surrounding communities indirectly. While many business owners are likely to face the brunt of in-coming economic challenges, many members of the community have opined that crime will increase at Wales.