The appeal by the Guyana Agricultural and General Worker’s Union’s (GAWU) and National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees’ (NAACIE) to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) was on Tuesday dismissed on the grounds that the applicants [GAWU & NAACIE] had sound notice of Government’s intention to close the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (GuySuCo) estates, the reasons for closure and the number of workers who would have been affected, prior to December 29, 2017.
At the end of 2017, Rose Hall, Skeldon, Wales and Enmore estates ceased operations at the behest of Government, leaving only three estates- Albion, Blairmont, and Uitvlugt- in operation.
To this end, thousands of sugar workers were left jobless.
GAWU and NAACIE took to the High Court on behalf of the workers, seeking to quash the APNU-AFC Government’s decision to close the Rose Hall and East Demerara Estates on the basis that the unions were inadequately consulted. They also contended that their constitutional right to work was breached.
GAWU’s President, Komal Chand, was recorded in the media stating that their argument in court was that the limited consultations between the Unions, the Opposition and the Government regarding the future of the sugar industry could were not acceptable.
He noted that just about four hours in total were spent on the three occasions the parties met.
“Our Unions pointed out that the Sugar CoI spent hundreds of man hours, and, at the end of that process, recommended that closure should not be pursued. We further pointed out that the closure decision clearly was not informed by the full consideration of all the factors which we have pointed out, especially that a socio-economic study was not pursued, though it was necessary,” General Secretary Seepaul Narine had said.
“Furthermore, we argued that the closure decision did not follow the clearly set out procedure contained in the Trade Union Recognition Act and the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act. Our Unions are seeking that the Government and GuySuCo engage in a proper and full consultation, as we hold that such an exercise will result in a different decision being taken,” he added.
GAWU had said that the unions believes that their appeal has great merit and substance, and that the learned Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire –at the High Court- had erred in her determination to deny their application.
However, the CCJ 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.