…“bleak Christmas” in sight – Chand
The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has started laying off workers from the Rose Hall Estate in Berbice despite Government’s announcement that the facility would no longer be closed at the end of this year.
In a letter seen by INews, GuySuCo discontinued the services of Rose Hall Field Supervisor Ramnarine Subramanian, under the Junior Staff Redundancy Notification.
The letter dated November 26, 2017 stated that a meeting was held at the Rose Hall Estate Community Centre on November 22, in the presence of his union, the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE). It was observed in the document therein that the Corporation had no vacant post to alternatively retain Subramanian’s services.
“The Corporation has given consideration to the option of you continuing in another job within (the) organisation. However, there is no suitable vacancy to accommodate you,” the letter stated.
Moreover, it was stated that the notice would expire on December 29, 2017 which will be his last day with the Rose Hall Estate and GuySuCo, and it was further observed that the termination was in keeping with the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act 1997 (TESPA).
Meanwhile, Guyana Agricultural and General Worker’s Union (GAWU) President Komal Chand related that many East Demerara (Enmore) Estate and Rose Hall Estate workers have already been terminated, and some of them have received their severance packages. He, however, said that payments to the majority of workers were still outstanding and expressed hope that the situation would not end up like Wales Estate’s case where after almost one year, workers are still to be paid termination benefits.
“Some have got their severance pay, but the bulk is yet to get their severance pay and they are hoping there will be no hitch like in the case of Wales,” he told this newspaper on Wednesday.
Chand added that GuySuCo’s redundancy measures have come as a departure to what Government, through Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, had officially told the National Assembly earlier this year regarding the future of the sugar industry.
“They said in their State paper, December 31 but they stopped planting canes the first part of this year and then they began to find some other jobs,” he pointed out.
The veteran trade unionist further contended that many workers would spend their holidays in uncertainty and their early removal would hinder their overall plans for year end.
“For them (sugar workers), it will be a bleak Christmas because they would not be working and they are not too certain when they will all get their severance pay,” Chand pointed out.
In May 2017, that Government announced plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates, sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory, reduce the annual production of sugar, and take on the responsibility of managing the drainage and irrigation services offered by GuySuCo. Several protest actions followed this announcement. In October, GuySuCo had disclosed plans to retrench some 2500 workers by the end of this year. However, GAWU reiterated that the downsizing and subsequent closure of sugar estates would lead to the loss of more than 15,000 jobs and the potential threat of poverty for 50,000 to 100,000 people.
In November, however, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon announced that Rose Hall’s closure was pushed back to sometime in 2018. The unions, GAWU and NAACIE, had moved to the High Court to quash Government’s move to close the East Demerara and Rose Hall Estates, but acting Chief Justice Roxane George ruled against this application. The matter is about to gain the attention of the Appeal Court as the unions have challenged the lead judge’s decision. The unions have embarked upon tendering submissions for the court’s consideration before the matter can proceed.
The Minister of State had announced that the Special Purposes Unit (SPU), which was established under the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) would manage the privatisation/divestment process of GuySuCo and determine the way forward for Rose Hall Estate.