GAWU moves to CCJ to prevent closures of sugar estates

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The Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU) has approached the Caribbean Court of Justice – the highest court in the region – to prevent the Guyana Government from closing the sugar estates by yearend.

GAWU President Komal Chand told reporters at a press conference Friday that the decision was taken after the Supreme Court of Guyana adjourned an appeal filed by GAWU and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) against the ruling by the Chief Justice (ag) to deny its application to quash the decision to shut down the East Demerara and Roe Hall Estates.

The matter came up before the Court of Appeal on December 21, 2017, and was adjourned to January 15, 2018 – by which time the closures of the estates would have already taken effect.

As such, Chand said the Unions’ lawyers approached the CCJ to intervene in some way to have the matter heard expeditiously.

“Ours lawyers, one in Guyana and one in Trinidad, since then hurriedly approached the CCJ in Trinidad,” he stated.

Chand continued: “While I cannot confirm this, we are reliably informed that the CCJ will immediately organize a panel of judges to hear the arguments of NAACIE and GAWU through our lawyers why this must be granted.”

The GAWU President said the Unions are now waiting on the decision of the CCJ – whether it will direct the Court of Appeal to hear the matter before the end of the year.

“If the closure takes place and the matter is heard afterwards then it might not be a fruitful exercise,” Chand explained.

GAWU and NAACIE had contended before Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George-Wiltshire that the closure decisions were “improper” and there were insufficient consultations between the Government and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) as well as between the Government and the Unions.

However, the Chief Justice denied the application, prompting the Unions to file an appeal.

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.

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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