The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has filed legal proceedings against the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), to which GuySuCo has transferred all of its assets, with the view of having them pay “all severance or redundancy payments or allowances due, owing and payable under the provisions of the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act, Chapter 96:01” to the 4283 employees that were made redundant in 2017.
In GAWU’s legal proceedings which is being handled by attorney-at-law (and former Attorney General) Anil Nandlall and his associates, the applicant, which is the legitimate trade union for the retrenched workers, is contending that the redundant workers were to receive their redundancy allowance/ severance payment not later than December, 29 2017, in accordance with the letter and spirit of Section 21 of the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay (TESPA) Act.
However, GAWU in its application, which was seen by this publication, is contending that the 4238 workers who were employed at Skeldon, Rosehall and the East Demerara Sugar Estates were paid only a portion of their redundancy allowance/severance payment and despite the workers’ as well as the Applicant’s repeated demands to GuySuCo for payment of the full redundancy allowance/severance payment due, the Corporation has “failed and refused to do so.”
The matter is fixed for hearing on July 20, 2018, at the High Court before Justice F. Corbin-Lincoln.
In January of this year Government had announced that redundant sugar estate workers whose severance payments are $500,000 and less will be paid in full by the end of January 2018, while workers receiving in excess of the aforementioned sum would attain 50 per cent of their severance benefits by the end of January and the other 50 per cent at the end 2018.
The Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and GAWU had decried that Government’s move to pay in two tranches was illegal, with the PPP’s leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo signalling in February of this year that they would help retrenched sugar workers to mount a legal challenge against government over their severance payments.
In what is described as the largest retrenchment by a private or public corporation in recent history, state owned GuySuCo as part of its plans to restructure the sugar industry has dismissed in excess of 4500 sugar workers from various estates.