Ex sugar workers protest PM’s Region 6 Office for their severance

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Ex-workers from Skeldon and Rose Hall estates staged a picketing exercise outside of the Prime Minister’s (PM), Region 6, Office at Port Mourant demanding that the Government settle the outstanding severance payments to them.

The workers who have been entitled to their payments since December 29, 2017 have only received half of their entitlements as the Administration simply, and unfortunately, did not cater to settle its obligations to the redundant workers.

The workers shared that, at this time, they desperately need their outstanding monies to allow them to defray some of life’s obligations.

The first half, they have informed, has already been exhausted.

They pointed out that they were forced to rely on their severance payments to meet their obligations as they have not been able to secure steady, remunerative employment.

The workers said that the last nine (9) months have been among the most difficult periods in their lives and they are of the firm view that the decisions to close estates were utterly and completely wrong.

According to the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAW) the protestors also were upset to hear President David Granger recently saying that their payments were taking away from other sectors.

The President was quoted as saying the severance payments to the thousands of sugar workers who were laid off in 2017 is “hemorrhaging the Government.”

The workers said that while the President has deemed that their lawful payments are taking away from other areas, they shared that it seems all has been forgotten about what the industry has given and is giving to the country still.

“They pointed to the billions of dollars the industry paid over to the Treasury as Sugar Levy; or the billions the Treasury benefitted from the EU Sugar Accompanying Measures programme; or the billions the Treasury saved arising from the drainage and irrigation services the industry provides, among other things” said GAWU in a statement.

The workers shared that it is saddening that the no other than the President had chosen to make such unfortunate statements and they cannot help but wonder whether this is the sort of concern the Government has for them and their families especially given the hard times they find themselves in.

They urged the President to come to their villages and walk the streets and visit their homes and hear first-hand about the suffering and hardships that have descended on thousands of Guyanese as a result of his Government’s decisions.

“President Granger would hear that while he talks about an educated nation, how workers are undergoing strains to send their children to school. There he would hear about how really hard it is to have adequate and proper meals. There he would know that people cannot afford to pay their bills. There he would be told that his Government’s decisions have shattered happy families. Then he would know about the tragic consequences of the decisions he and his colleagues took” GAWU quoted the workers as saying.

Moreover, according to GAWU, the former workers urged the Government to “no longer continue to break the law and settle, without further delay, its indebtedness to them. While they said this would provide some temporary reprieve, they also look forward to further assistance from the Administration to help them to permanently overcome the challenges they face.”

Some 7000 sugar workers were dismissed on December 29, 2017, without severance being paid “on termination” as required by the law to all of them.

Severance was paid in part to over 4000 of the 7000 dismissed sugar workers, with the remainder being promised at the end of this year.

The Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act stipulates that workers who are made redundant must be paid severance upon termination.

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