While 99 of 105 sugar workers remain without employment at the Wales Sugar Estate as a result of a court battle between the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and trade unions, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo on Wednesday heard the concerns of 11 workers.
At the meeting, it was noted that GuySuCo is prepared to pay workers the severance packages as long as the court order is lifted.
According to a press statement, a delegation of Wales Estate sugar workers met with the Prime Minister to “listen to their concerns regarding the payment of their severance packages.” This comes months after the workers were given letters to the effect that they would have been paid their severance in May.
During the meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday, the workers explained that GuySuCo officials met with them and explained the plans to merge the Wales and Uitvlugt estates, and that they would be offered continued employment at the Uitvlugt estate.
As the workers opted against being transferred and instead accepted the severance packages, an agreement was made to commence payment of said packages.
“The workers explained that shortly before the date on which the severance was to have been paid, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) sought and received an order from the court which stopped GuySuCo from making the payments… [They] expressed frustration that several months have now passed and GuySuCo continues to be prevented from effecting the payments by order of the court,” the statement noted.
It was also stated that Prime Minister Nagamootoo told the 11 workers that he had been advised that GuySuCo is prepared to pay the severance and monies have been set aside for same, but the company could not act in violation of an injunction that was granted in the High Court.
Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, who was also present at the meeting, was said to have confirmed that GuySuCo is “prepared to effect the payment with immediate effect should the order of the court be lifted.” The Wales sugar workers were promised their severance payments on May 4.
Before May, the workers were given letters on March 22 stating that they would have been paid their termination benefits, but GuySuCo has however maintained that the injunction barred the payments to workers. GAWU in response had noted that the agreement between the workers and GuySuCo was reached before the May 6, 2016 injunction was granted and as such, this cannot prevent GuySuCo from paying the workers.
The court action was first brought on after GuySuCo began discussions with individual employees of the Wales Estate to negotiate severance packages, without informing or involving the unions. At one point, the workers were given a three-day ultimatum to make their decisions, but GuySuCo later folded those plans. It was in January that it was announced that sugar operations at Wales would come to an end.