Agri Ministry invokes involuntary servitude

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Wales closure fallout

…compels workers to break labour agreement

The Agriculture Ministry is contending that all Wales, West Bank Demerara workers who were entitled to their severance package have already been paid but the workers’ union is maintaining otherwise.
The Agriculture Ministry said it is surprised by the protest action taken by sugar workers who were attached to the Wales Estate on Monday outside of the Ministry of the Presidency.
The workers, who are under the employ of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), are demanding their severance payment.

Agriculture Minister Noel Holder and GAWU President Komal Chand

But the Agriculture Ministry contended that the workers have already been paid their severance and that there is no severance payment outstanding. “The Ministry of Agriculture wishes to make it clear that GuySuCo has advised that all workers who had been declared redundant had accepted severance following the merging of the Wales and Uitvlugt operations and have been paid their severance in full,” the Ministry said in a statement.
The Ministry said the organised protest actions and demands for severance is unreasonable. It explained that extensive efforts were made to ensure continued employment of the Wales workers at Uitvlugt and this was successfully achieved.

Former Cane harvesters of Wales estate protesting outside the Ministry of the Presidency on Monday

Further, it said that transportation is being fully provided to Uitvlugt from the West Bank of Demerara and back.
“GuySuCo has stated that no worker is responsible for providing their own transportation. As a pertinent example, workers who have been previously assigned to work at the Skeldon Estate are now working at Albion, a much further distance to travel, and have been doing so without any issue,” the Ministry stated.
It went on to say that “this purported issue of not wanting to work at Uitvlugt is disingenuous. The issue previously was being unemployed following the merger of the Wales and Uitvlugt factory operations.”
“There is no option for workers who were offered alternative employment to now make demands for severance when no such offer is on the table and there is full and secure employment for them at Uitvlugt,” the Ministry stated.

UNION’S TAKE
However, President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Komal Chand posited that the workers would be “insane” to embark on a protest for their severance if they had already received it.
These workers, who are cane cutters and members of the cane transport gang, were told that they must take up work at Uitvulgt but they responded with resistance because they were not paid their severance, according to the GAWU President.
“There work has become redundant and according to the law, if your work has become redundant you have to [be paid] your severance pay for the service you have rendered to the employer,” Chand outlined.
Further, he noted that the law states that an individual is not required to work at another location that belongs to the employer if that location is more than 10 miles away – as with the case of Wales and Uitgvult.
Close to 300 cane harvesters converged at the eastern gate of the Head of State’s Office on Monday last, continuing what they started the previous Monday in the West Bank Demerara (WBD) village of Wales.
According to the protesters, it would seem as if the officials of GuySuCo are forcing them to commence working at Uitvulgt Estate located on the West Coast of Demerara (WCD), which is approximately 40 miles from Wales. They say they prefer to be paid their severance and then make a decision whether or not they want to commute to Uitvulgt. (Guyana Times)

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