Update: Fmr. Wales workers in massive protest for severance
By Devina Samaroo
It has been more than a year since the closure of the Wales Sugar Estate on the West Bank of Demerara, but some 350 cane-cutters are yet to receive their legally-entitled severance.
Annoyed and concerned that their colleagues at the other estates have received their packages, the ex-workers took to the streets outside of President David Granger’s Office in a massive protest, demanding that their severance be paid. They later protested in front of the High Court as well.
“Since 2016, Wales Estate has been closed and GuySuCo and the Government, they are playing politics with we livelihood, they are taking advantage of us because there is many estates that close down after Wales and these people done receive their severance pay and it is unfair that Wales Estate closed since 2016 and we can’t get we severance pay,” Romeo Charles, a former cane-cutter said.
Charles contended that “we are not supposed to be in this position here protesting for we money. We are entitled to it and it unfair to see that the government and GuySuCo are treating us this badly.”
In addition to retrenched sugar workers, children and housewives were also on the picket line, waving placards and demanding that severance is paid.
According to GAWU – the union representing sugar workers – the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) wanted the retrenched cane cutters to take up work at the Uitvlugt Estate which is located more than 20 miles away from Wales.
GAWU took the issue to court, contending that the demand to work at Uitvlugt was contrary to the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act.
Since the matter was taken to court, GuySuCo has refused to make the payment of severance until the court case is resolved but according to the President of GAWU, the court is not treating the case with urgency.
“We have the matter in the court for over a year now and the court is not giving it priority to have the matter heard. So we hope this demonstration will impress the Chief Justice to have the matter set for hearing,” Komal Chand told reporters during an interview on the picket line.
Chand said GAWU is willing to drop the matter in the court once GuySuCo agrees to pay the workers their severance instead of forcing them to work at Uitvlugt.
The GAWU President said he raised the issue with President David Granger when the two met last month and assurances were given that the issue will be addressed.
However, Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder told the National Assembly during a debate on sugar workers’ severance earlier this year, that no provision was made to pay the severance to the 350-odd Wales workers who were retrenched.
Holder contended that no provision was made because the matter is engaging the attention of the court.