CCJ rules against unions in dismissal of sugar workers

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The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) today ruled that the unions representing sugar workers, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) were adequately consulted before the Government’s decision to close the Rose Hall and Enmore sugar estates on December 29th, 2017.

GAWU and NAACIE approached the CCJ after the case was thrown out of the High Court.

Following the Government’s announcement on May 8th, 2017 to close the estates, Sattie Basdeo, Trustee of GAWU and Roxanne St. Hill, Trustee of NAACIE challenged the decision in the High Court on the basis that the unions were inadequately consulted.

They contended that the dismissal of thousands of workers will be a breach of their constitutional right to work.

However, their action was dismissed by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

The Applicants then turned to the CCJ seeking special leave to appeal but the Court ordered the parties to include the arguments that would be raised as part of their appeal if the leave was granted.

In a statement on Tuesday, the CCJ said it agreed with the lower courts that there was sufficient consultation, though it did not consider the Commission of Inquiry held in 2015 on the viability of Guysuco to be part of the consultation process.

The process, according to the Court, “was not perfect but satisfied the legal duty to consult in the circumstances.”

The Court also found that there was sufficient evidence on record to show that the Applicants had reasonable notice of Guysuco’s intentions to close, the reasons for closure and the number and categories of workers which would be affected as legally required.

However, the Court declined to address whether the right to work enshrined in the Constitution was breached as it said this allegation stemmed from the argument that there was a breach of the duty to consult.

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