Holder maintains money budgeted for severance, workers will be paid in January

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Agriculture Minister Noel Holder is maintaining that monies were allotted in the 2018 National Budget to distribute severance payments for the displaced sugar workers, contrary to statements made by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) earlier today.

Holder, at a press conference at his Ministry Thursday, said Cabinet has taken a decision to make the severance payout in January 2018.  Asked for specifics, Holder referred media operatives to the Ministry of Finance.

“I am advised that money has been made available in the budget. You can verify that with the Minister of Finance…Certainly, money is there in the budget to make payments in January,” the Agriculture Minister said.

Asked how much money has been budgeted, Holder said he does not know but he stated that the total needed by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) for severance is some $4.6B.

Holder noted too that a total of $6.3B was budgeted for GuySuCo but he does not know how the money will be divided for severance.

In a statement to the media today, GAWU said it was informed by the Sugar Company that some 4000 sugar workers who will be made redundant by yearend will not receive their severance until sometime in February 2018.

GAWU said the Sugar Company submitted a preliminary figure to the Government, however, that the total sums of money needed for the severance payout will only be determined after the Corporation’s audit department completes its examination of the data.

GAWU said the audit process would be completed sometime in January 2018.

When the final figure is submitted, the Government will most likely approach the National Assembly for a supplementary allocation in order to meet the expenditure.

GAWU, in a statement, said it is dismayed that these workers will not be getting their packages during such a difficult period for themselves and their families.

As such, the Union said it recommended that GuySuCo retain the workers in suitable employment until it is in a position to honour the workers’ severance payments.

GuySuCo will send home an estimated 4000 workers by the end of the year as part of plans to restructure the sugar industry. The decision represents the largest retrenchment by any corporation, public or private, in recent history.

The government had pledged to unveil a diversification plan to ensure continued employment for workers being sent home, but no major effort has materialised.

By the end of the year, estates at Rose Hall, Skeldon, Wales and Enmore would cease operations. Only three estates are being kept in operation – at Albion in East Berbice, Blairmont in West Berbice and Uitvlugt on the West Coast of Demerara.

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