Several former workers of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) together with officials of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) staged a picketing exercise outside of the GFC Head Office in Kingston, Georgetown this morning (September 16, 2021). Joining the former workers and the GAWU personnel were a few others who stood in solidarity with the former workers.
The workers protested the refusal of the non-payment of terminal benefits to them following the GFC’s decision to terminate their employment at varying times. GAWU which is the workers bargaining agent had represented the matter to the Commission pointing out that the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act (TESPA) obligates an employer is required to pay severance pay on the termination of an employee. Arising from the GFC’s stance, the Union approached the Ministry of Labour. At a meeting on August 16, 2021, the Ministry having heard from both the GAWU and the GFC upheld the Union’s view and recommended that the workers be paid severance pay in keeping with TESPA.
The Commission’s representatives, at that time, requested some time to brief their principals and to respond to the Ministry and the Union. Both GAWU and the Labour Ministry made several attempts to hear from the Commission and by letter dated September 10, 2021, the GFC informed the Union and the Ministry it had decided not to respect the Labour Ministry’s recommendation. The Union, in the meantime, has sought the Ministry’s further intervention as the matter remains live.
The workers having learnt of the Commission’s decision were deeply upset and disturbed. They shared that while the Commission and themselves may have had differences they did not expect the GFC whom they served for several years to treat them in the manner which they are. The workers are contending they are seeking to move on and all they seek is for their right to severance be respected. The GAWU, at this time, urges the GFC, as a state agency, to reconsider its position and ensure that the workers rights are safeguarded. [GAWU Press Release]