GAWU to take legal action against GuySuCo over unsettled severance pay for sugar workers
In a matter of days, the Union which represents the majority of sugar workers would be serving GuySuCo with a lawsuit for nonpayment of severance pay for sugar workers.
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) will be moving to the court to represent 350 sugar workers who are being denied their severance pay.
President of GAWU, Komal Chand said if GuySuCo maintains the current posture of nonpayment, then the matter will have to be dealt with in Court. Chand said only 20 workers have since taken up GuySuCo’s offer but are not cane cutters, which is a larger representation of workers from the Wales Estate.
“We are hoping that no later than early next week, we have this matter put in the hands of our lawyer and we are going to seek legally the workers to have their severance pay,” he said.
He said the sugar company cannot commandeer workers who are refusing to take up employment at another estate in light of the end of sugar operations at Wales Estate. He explained that “once the workers are offered work more than a 10-mile radius away, the workers are not compelled to take up work…that’s what the law refer to and all we are doing is invoking the law for the benefit of our workers.”
According to him many of the workers are debating their relocation because they found the distance to their new worksite to entail extensive travelling for about 22 miles.
Chand said the Union remains very supportive of the workers but GuySuCo wants the Union not to represent them and continue to fight for what is rightfully their benefit.
The Ministry of Agriculture said recently that it does not intend to pay any more severance pay or rather lose any remaining workers, but rather to have them maintained, sustained and or utilized. The government said, in 2016 workers that could not be retained at the estate received $80.1M in severance pay.
It also sought to compare the re-assignment of Skeldon sugar workers to the Albion Estate (a greater distance of travel) where no complaints were made, noting that the calls are “politically motivated.”
On Friday, (February 24, 2017), the Government said it is offering lands to workers from the Wales Estate to lease. The lands can either be used for cane cultivation or other crops.