The Wales Estate sugar workers, who were made redundant over one year ago, staged a protest exercise on Thursday morning in front of the Ministry of the Presidency (MOTP), calling for their much deserved severance payments.
The retrenched Wales workers are without their benefits after they refused to take up employment on the contention that they cannot be compelled, under law, to travel 22 miles from their original place of work to the Uitvlugt, West Coast Demerara estate.
Among the crowd of hundreds of sugar workers, their wives, and children, were People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Parliamentarians, Bishop Juan Edghill and Dr Frank Anthony.
Speaking to the media, Edghill posited that the PPP is standing in solidarity with the over 370 cane harvesters who were denied their severance packages after being fired and told to commence work at the Uitvlugt Estate.
“I am here today, lending solidarity with the workers, with the people of Wales, like we would have done before, demanding what is just. They’re not asking a favour. Severance pay is not a favour for the workers. The law says, if you send people home and make their positions redundant, you must pay them their severance,” he said.
Edghill further called on the David Granger led-Administration to desist from being “insensitive,” “unresponsive” and “aloof” and get down to business of meeting the needs of the ordinary “grass root people.”
“I think what made matters worse was that severance was paid at Wales to the senior level people who were terminated, but the grass root cane cutters received not a dime…If you’re paying severance, pay severance across the board!” said Edghill.
INews also spoke to a few visibly frustrated sugar workers who repeatedly begged for Government to pay them their severance packages since their children- who are unable to attend school- are feeling the full brunt of it.
“Is 20 years, 4 months I wuk with them [Wales Estate]…I have a wife and seven children…This is one ah me son. Right now, I couldn’t even afford to send he to school this morning because me aint got money to send he to school…I does ga find $500 passage fuh he when the day come and spending money fee and many days I does cant send he to school,” Romeo Charles told the media.
Another man who identified himself as a father of three said “ Nobody telling we when we getting we severance. All they telling we is we have to go to Uitvlugt. We didn’t get employment at Uitvlugt, we get employment at Wales. We need we severance because we got family to maintain. They tell we how the estate was merged with Uitvlugt estate, there was no agreement of that. All wah they try to do is bully we.”
Dindiyal Jailall, who appeared irritated, explained that it is unfair that every other estate which was closed after Wales, their worker are receiving severance payments, while they [Wales workers] are left waiting.
“Since 2016 them lay off we from Wales. All them estate come back ah we, and them get their severance. One month after they get they severance. We nah get we severance, them nah tell we nothing about we money…We gon picket every day fuh we severance!” he promised.
Meanwhile, President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Komal Chand said that his association will continue to support the workers until they are paid their severance which they deserve in accordance to the laws of Guyana.
“GuySuCo is demanding that they go and take up work at Uitvlugt and Uitvlugt is over 10 miles from Wales so they ought to be given their severance pay by now. The court has not given it priority to have the matter heard so we’re hoping that this demonstration will impress the Chief Justice to have the matter set for hearing,” he explained.
Moreover, according to Chand, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder informed the National Assembly on January 19 that no provision has been made for the workers since the matter is engaging the Court.
However, Chand posited that ” Minister Holder is aware of the workers undertaking to the President to have the matter withdrawn should their request be positively addressed.”