GAWU Head says 50/50 severance pay to sugar workers violates the law

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By Devina Samaroo

The phased payout of severance to the retrenched sugar workers is in violation of the Laws of Guyana, President of the Guyana General and Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), Komal Chand has contended.

President David Granger Wednesday announced that $2B was set aside to pay the displaced sugar workers 50% of their severance by the end of the month while the remainder will be given out in the second half of the year.

Chand, who is also a Parliamentarian for the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), told News Room in an invited comment that this arrangement is in clear breach of the law as the workers were entitled to their payment as soon as they were made redundant.

“The law requires you to do that, you are violating the law by not paying the severance pay at the end of the one month’s notice so you have completed an illegal act,” the GAWU President said.

Chand further stated that the workers “have not received [severance], at the end of their notice, so how can you tell them now that you will give them half pay at the end of January and the other half at the end of the year. This is an act of irresponsibility. It’s very sickening to hear these things.”

Sugar workers protest for their severance

The Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act stipulates that workers who are made redundant must be made severance upon termination.

“On termination of his employment, an employee whose severance or redundancy has completed one year or more years of continuous employment with allowance, an employer shall be entitled to be paid by such employee a severance or redundancy allowance equivalent to…” the law states.

An estimated 4,000 sugar workers were sent home just before holidays last year as part of Government’s plans to restructure the industry.

The Head of State’s announcement comes one day after a massive protest in Berbice where the sacked workers from the Rose Hall estate demanded their severance.

President Granger explained that the Government has “embarked on an extensive review of expenditure in every sector to the extent of reducing ministerial budgets in order to find funds to enable sugar workers to receive their severance pay.”

It was not expected that the Government would be scraping from other budgets to pay severance to the estimated 4, 000 sugar workers who were sent home.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon and Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder had both categorically told the News Room that the severance pay would have been met from the 2018 Budget. But sources within the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) had said that the budgetary provisions for GuySuCo in the budget, namely $6.8 billion, was meant to keep operations going at the estates that are being kept in operation.

Estates at Albion, Blairmont, Uitvlugt will be kept running with the aim of producing 147,000 tonnes annually.

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