It has been over one year since the Wales Sugar Estate on the West Bank of Demerara ceased operating on December 31, 2016, but over 370 defunct workers are yet to receive their severance even though their colleagues at other estates are being paid their termination benefits.
The visibly upset workers voiced their disdain at a job fair organised by the Private Sector Commission (PSC) to provide information for unemployed persons on West Bank Demerara.
The sugar workers who spent much of their working life at the Wales Estate are demanding answers as to when they will be paid their benefits.
They contended that they are finding much difficulty in providing for themselves and family.
The retrenched Wales workers are without their benefits after they refused to take up employment on the contention that they cannot be compelled, under law, to travel 22 miles from their original place of work to the Uitvlugt, West Coast Demerara estate.
As time elapsed, GuySuCo opted against paying the benefits and the matter was taken to court sometime around March 2017.
Now that 10 months have passed, the High Court is yet to call the matter for hearing. In the meantime, however, the Wales workers have not been paid their termination benefits and are annoyed that retrenched Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon workers have been receiving their severance.
“Imagine is only a month now and Enmore done getting pay off, plus they got investor for them still get job but here you not got job or money, that is not fair,” a father of four, Floyd Dick explained, adding that one of his children is writing the CXC examinations later this year.
The workers also feel that land should be allocated to them to go into farming and other projects in order for them to provide for their families.
Now that estate closures have become a reality, there have been calls for GuySuCo to lease its lands to former workers to enter alternative business operations.
Earlier this week, Government commenced a payout of almost $2 billion as severance to thousands of dismissed sugar workers across the Rose Hall, Skeldon and East Demerara (Enmore) Estates.
It was disclosed to the National Assembly that dismissed sugar workers at these three estates whose severance packages are $500,000 or less would be paid in full by January 31 and that workers receiving in excess of aforementioned sum, would attain 50 per cent of their severance benefits, while the other 50 per cent would be paid in December of 2018.
However, the workers at Wales are questioning just when they would receive their payments.
Meanwhile Chairman of the Guyana Private Sector Commission (PSC) Eddie Boyer says he supports calls for the establishment of a new industrial zone at Wales, West Bank Demerara (WBD), following the outcry of residents there about the negative impact of the closure of the estate and the dismissal of hundreds of workers.
The PSC in collaboration with private and public corporations launched the job fair at Patentia on the West Bank of Demerara. The objective was to link potential employers and employees, primarily from the closed Wales Estate, with each other.
According to Boyer, “while the PSC seeks to find employment for the unemployed, we would like to reiterate that we advocated for the estates to remain operational, while being transferred to private hands, as we never supported closure. It is our desire to continue working with the Special Purpose Unit to facilitate the privatization and ensuring rehiring of staff. Given the closure, we are now advocating for a speedy privatization so that the unemployed can be absorbed quickly.”
This publication was informed that the PSC plans to take the initiative to Enmore and Berbice where thousands of workers were recently retrenched by the Guyana Sugar Corporation.