Uitvlugt Estate employees refuse to work beyond curfew after harassment from Police
The harassment of agriculture workers by the Guyana Police Force has led to the factory workers at the Uitvlugt Estate on the West Coast Demerara (WCD) refusing to work beyond the 18:00h curfew time.
The factory workers downed tools on Wednesday after the estate demanded that they work two shifts which run from 06:00h to 14:00h and then 14:00h to 22:00h.
The workers say they continue to be harassed by the Police on the way home even though they are listed as essential workers.
According to the COVID-19 guidelines which has in place a curfew from 6pm to 6am, essential services include “factories, manufacturers or distributors of food supplies (particularly producers or processors of rice, sugar, poultry and fish).”
According to General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Seepaul Narine, close to 300 factory workers are divided into the two shifts to conduct out-of-crop maintenance.
GAWU in a statement said during the cropping period “many workers had faced many difficulties with the law enforcement officers when they returned home during the curfew period although they were deemed essential workers.”
As such, the matter was previously discussed with the estate’s management and an agreement was reached where the working hours will not go beyond the curfew.
The Union also suggested that appropriate representation be made to the authorities to ensure workers do not confront similar difficulties should the curfew period prevail when the second crop commences.
But on Wednesday, GuySuCo reneged on the initial agreement and demanded that the employees work the two shifts which goes beyond the curfew.
“Moreover, there was no advice about whether any successful representation to avoid the difficulties workers faced when returning home during the curfew hours,” GAWU said.
Additionally, the Union raised concerns about the workers having to conduct their duties without any physical distancing measures in place.
“Indeed, it is felt that this is not in keeping with adequate safety and health practices in the era of COVID-19,” the union said in its statement.
Further, the workers are also upset that their holiday-with-pay payments for those workers who have ten or more years of service have been delayed for two weeks now.
The sugar workers employed in the fields and the factories receive holiday-with-pay payments in lieu of annual leave.
According to the Union, following the protest “the Union was informed by GuySuCo during the day that the workers would finally receive their outstanding monies on May 29, 2020.”