…President picketed for justice
With no favourable response yet from the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and Government, cane harvesters of the now inoperable Wales Sugar Factory on Monday took their cries for severance pay to the Ministry of the Presidency.
The chants outside the office of the President were for the immediate release and payment of the severance package, which was promised to cane harvesters, prior to the shutting down of the Wales Factory late last year.
Close to 300 cane harvesters converged at the eastern gate of the Head of State’s office, continuing what they started last 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 around 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 Uitvlugt.
“The eighth of this month they called us back for a meeting and the General Manager of Wales said that GuySuCo’s position is that they will keep us on the payroll at Wales, but they will transfer us to Uitvlugt,” said Romeo Charles, a cane harvester on the picket line. He said it was over 22 miles just to reach the Estate, while the worksite is another 15 miles into the Estate.
“So when I calculate from Wales to Uitvlugt, it is anything like about 40 miles to reach the worksite. I said when you leave home at 4’o clock in the morning and reach Uitvlugt at 10, what kind of work can you do to get a day’s pay?” he questioned
Another protester, identified as Leonard, said: “We need our severance from Wales Estate right now. The General Manager of Wales is victimising these Wales workers; we need our severance pay now.”
The cane harvesters are casting the blame squarely at the feet of the Wales Estate General Manager, Dave Kumar, who they said cheated them into this situation. They said he went “behind their backs” and told GuySuCo that the workers were all prepared to move over to Uitvlugt.
Meanwhile, Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) President Komal Chand, who was also at the protest, said Government was being unreasonable and needed to listen to the concerns of the cane harvesters.
In a statement, GAWU reiterated that the workers’ demand for severance pay was based on their clear understanding that their jobs were now redundant, since cane growing and sugar processing have ended at Wales.
“Their right to severance pay is enshrined in the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act (TESPA). It is apt to point out too, that GuySuCo, with our Union present, during engagements with the workers that begun December 15, 2016, advised the workers quite correctly that their jobs were to become redundant and they were entitled to severance pay if they decided not to go to Uitvlugt Estate. Already, a number of workers who opted not to take up work at Uitvlugt received their severance pay while the entitlements of some others are being processed,” the Union said in its release.
The public outcry for severance pay began with an equally large crowd at the Wales Estate last week. The frustrated workers demanded that their severance packages be paid immediately, which were promised to them since December of last year.