While some of the hundreds of retrenched sugar workers, who engaged the Government team of Ministers and agents of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCO) at a meeting in Enmore today, were elated at the prospect that they would finally be receiving part of their severance payments come Monday, many others left the meeting disgruntled.
Those workers expressed their concerns that they will not be paid their full severance even though their services with GuySuCo were terminated since December of last year.
Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan who was the main speaker at the event told the workers gathered, among other things, that the decision to pay the sugar workers who earned 500,000 or less their full severance was negotiated with their Union, who he said proposed the idea, while the remainder of the payments will be paid in the latter half of the year.
On January 19, 2018, Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan 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.
This was after a supplementary provision of $1.931B was approved by the National Assembly.
The Opposition People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) had put Government of blast for its decision to pay the sacked sugar workers their severance payments in two tranches. A move Opposition Leader Dr Bharat Jadgeo had outlined on multiple occasions as illegal.
“Severance is obligatory and not determined by the benevolence of the government…it is law…there is an Act that all employers must respect…that Act says once people are severed, once they qualify, and the sugar workers qualify, then severance must be paid” Jagdeo had said.
According to him, the government knew that over 4,000 severance letters were issued, even before the Budget 2018 was passed, and made no provision for severance, hence the move to approach the National Assembly recently for additional funds.
Before Ramjattan’s arrival at the meeting scores of workers protested his presence there while chanting he was not welcomed in their community.
They were at the time voicing their concerns over the nonpayment of their full severance to date and the hardships they are facing as result of their services being made redundant.
In what is described as the largest retrenchment by a private or public corporation in recent history, the Guyana Sugar Corporation as part of its plans to restructure the sugar industry has dismissed in excess of 4500 sugar workers from various estates.