Sacked Rose Hall sugar workers protest for severance pay

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Workers sent home from the Rose Hall estate on Tuesday, January 09, 2018, took to the streets to demand severance pay from the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and the Government giving no clear answers.

An estimated 800 workers have been sent home and the Rose Hall estate shut down at the end of last month.

Opposition Parliamentarian Gail Teixeira told the workers that they deserve to be paid “properly, urgently and immediately” and if it is that they must “struggle and march on then so be it,” adding that they will have the support of the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP).

A large group of workers and their families, members of the opposition and regional officials from both Regions Five and Six, along with representatives of the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), marched with placards from the Rose Hall Estate in Canje to Canje turn and back.

Teixeira called on Government to release the lands from the estates to the laid-off workers and their families so that they can engage in alternative employment. She also said the affected workers should be provided with technical training and financial assistance to facilitate farming.

“They [Government] have put aside money for training and micro enterprises, none of the money budgeted is for any sugar working area. Take some of that money and put it into communities where some of the sugar workers have lost their jobs so that they can get retraining so that they might be able to get a job or be self-employed,” she declared.

Teixeira, who serves as Opposition Chief Whip in Parliament, reminded the crowd that when the Bauxite industry was facing difficulties, the PPP, who was in Government at the time, had taken the initiative to provide electricity subsidies for the population in Linden and Kwakwani that were dependent mainly on Bauxite.

“So we are saying, give similar subsidies to the families of those who lost jobs. We also call on commercial banks to go into soft loans to help those workers who have taken out mortgages and loans for vehicles. Have compassion for the sugar workers and their families so they can manage,” the Opposition MP stated.

Teixeira said the decision made by the Government to terminate the services of thousands of workers is “ignorant, political, vindictive and stupid.”

She also noted that for the factories to be valued after they were closed was a “stupid financial decision.”

“How can you value the estates after closing? You are doing it when nothing is happening at the estates, the value of it depreciates.”

Komal Chand, President of GAWU, said all the talk about alternative jobs such as aquaculture, citrus farming, beef and dairy cattle, etc. are yet to take form.

Chand noted that GAWU had made several proposals on how to save the sugar industry.

“We talk about the Skeldon Co-Gen facility. Last year, although production was poor, they (sold) electricity to the national grid and GPL and they got $9.5 Billion. (With) that $9.5 billion and sugar sales last year, you didn’t need any money from Government to keep the factory going,” Chand reasoned.

He also stressed that the severance pay must be done as it is an entitlement to the workers.

Turning his attention on the education of the nation, Regional Chairman David Armogan spoke of plans to hand over a school bus to residents in Fyrish village on the Corentyne instead of placing it in areas immediately affected by the closure of the estates such as Rose Hall.

“On Thursday, the President is going to give another bus to the people of Fyrish. The bus is going to Fyrish rather than Rose Hall Canje where your children may not be able to go to school because you may not have the money to pay the passage to get where they are going; no consideration whatsoever,” Armogan stated.

As part of restructuring plans, the Government has sent home at estimate 4, 000 workers from Rose Hall, Skeldon, Wales and Enmore.

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