As the third day of Budget 2019 debates were on-going in the National Assembly, scores of sugar workers braved the heat in front of Parliament building, Brickdam, with placards calling for an immediate salary increase by the coalition Government.
This call by the workers came just a day after President of the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), Komal Chand made the said call in Parliament during his presentation noting that since the current administration took office back in 2015, the workers were not given a single increase.
“Sugar workers received harshest of treatment, not even the Burnham sugar workers didn’t receive this kind of treatment, they didn’t give the sugar worker any increase since APNU took office… It is baffling to understand why the workers are treated so shabbily, this is plain eye pass by this anti working class administration” Chand criticized.
However, not only were workers calling for an increase but former sugar workers once attached to the now closed Wales Sugar Estate joined hands in protesting for severance payments owed to them.
More than 350 who were formerly attached to the estate were left unpaid when the remaining workers were paid on Friday last.
Opposition MPs engaged the protesters including the Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo and former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall standing with them as they made their demands.
According to Nandlall although the High Court ruled that all workers severed by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) must be paid, Governments excuse is that there is a case which is pending in the High Court which prevents them from paying these workers.
“Whatever case is pending in the High Court, it cannot justify violating the clear language of a Court Order. This is simply a lame and clumsy excuse” Nandlall said on the sidelines of the protest.
Government had, earlier this year, opted to pay some workers half of their severance, with the remaining half to be paid in the latter part of the year.
The Department of Public Information (DPI) announced last week that Government had kept its promise to pay out the remaining fifty per cent of severance to those receiving amounts in excess of $500,000 by the end of 2018.
In fact, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had given all assurances that the Wales workers, who previously were prevented from receiving severance pay would receive their outstanding benefits.
He also said, that Government would respect the ruling of the court and pay interest of between four and six per cent on the outstanding amounts.