The Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, has slammed President David Granger’s remarks at a gathering at Sister’s Village, East Bank Berbice recently, that the severance payment to the thousands of sugar workers who were laid off in 2017 is “hemorrhaging the Government.”
According to Jagdeo in a press conference on Thursday, it is no one but the President and the his actions that are causing the alleged financial issues Guyana is facing.
“The Government through NICIL borrowing $30B and not spending it for a year and a half…but just sit on it, the interest alone on that borrowing can pay the severance for all the sugar workers, the remaining severance. He ignores that. He ignores the fact that his Government, in [several] areas in which I pointed out to him…and to the public, in areas like celebration of National Events, [and] dietary in Government, just those two areas…the growth from 2015 to 2018 in the budget of those two activities of Government can pay all the severance of the sugar workers” he explained to media operatives.
Jagdeo posited that should the Government revert to the 2014 budget for celebrations of National Events and dietary for one year, they would be able to pay the entire outstanding severance to all the estate workers.
Moreover, the Opposition Leader lamented on the fact that when the President visited Berbice, despite knowing that close to 7,000 workers were placed on the breadline, he brought no sort of hope for them.
“ He goes to Berbice, which is suffering…because 7,000 workers have been laid off and that’s what you tell them? Without any glimmer of hope for the future, you do not say we’re gonna work with you to try to find new jobs, we’re going to train you, we’re going to assist you by giving some subsidy like electricity that we spent $3B for in Linden that the rest of the country does that….he says nothing to bring hope to the people, just complains about the severance for sugar workers, which they are entitled to by law, that this is hemorrhaging the Government coffers. Absolutely no hope to those people.”
Just recently, Canada’s largest Private Sector trade union, Unifor, had expressed deep concerns over Government’s handling of the sugar industry, particularly when it comes to ensuring that dismissed sugar workers are given their severance package in full.
“I have never seen a Government that does something as little as taking someone’s severance, especially after losing their jobs. So, for us, this is a big issue. I mean if this was in Canada, I can assure that they could have gone to jail. It’s serious stuff. So, the Government needs to take this seriously,” Director for Human Rights and International Department at Unifor, Mohamad Alsadi, told this media group.
Some 7000 sugar workers were dismissed on December 29, 2017, without severance being paid “on termination” as required by the law to all of them. Severance was paid in part to over 4000 of the 7000 dismissed sugar workers, with the remainder being promised at the end of this year.
The Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act stipulates that workers who are made redundant must be paid severance upon termination.