$200M payment to sugar workers is compensation for mistreatment, illegal firing – AG

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Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall has rubbished criticisms over a recent decision to pay sugar workers outstanding wage increases amounting to some $200M.

According to Nandlall, this payment is sort of a compensation to sugar workers who were mistreated and arbitrarily dismissed by the APNU+AFC administration when it downsized the sugar industry during its five-year tenure in office.

“These workers for no reason – not their fault – bread was taken away from them and their family for nearly two or three years, and we promised them. They are Guyanese, they contributed to this country and they are contributing to this country. Just like we paid and are still paying the light bill for the people of Region Ten, running into hundreds of millions of dollars per year. We are paying for that, all of us are paying for that so what happen if we give the sugar workers $200M compensation for their mistreatment and the illegal hiring by the previous government,” Nandlall contended.

He made this remark during his weekly programme – Issues in the News.

Following protest action across the country by sugar workers over outstanding wage and salary increases, government last month approved a six-month pay hike for the year 2019, amounting to some $200 million.

This was after the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) were embroiled in a public spat over the issue, forcing Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo to intervene and announce the retroactive payment.

But President of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) Patrick Yarde had subsequently criticized the move and was quoted as saying that government had responded to protests from workers in the sugar sector but yet refuses to make a similar consideration for public sector workers.

In response, however, GAWU defended the decision, saying this was one of the “messes” the current administration had inherited.

The Union further reminded of the GPSU’s silence when thousands of sugar workers, who had toiled to contribute to Guyana’s development, were placed on the breadline under the previous Coalition regime.