Redundant sugar estate workers whose severance payments are $500,000 and less will be paid in full by the end of January 2018.
This is according to Finance Minister, Winston Jordan on Friday In the National Assembly as he sought a supplementary provision of $1.931B -which was approved.
This amount was an amendment to the initial supplementary provision request of $1.75B in Parliament, earlier today.
Jordan had explained that, the total amount of severance to be paid out to the excess of 4,000 sugar workers is $4.24B.
However, at present, only $0.5B of the $6.3B to be transferred to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) in 2018 is earmarked for severance payment.
As such, the estimated amount to be paid by the end of January 2018 is $2.431B.
During the debates on the matter, Opposition Parliamentarian and President of GAWU, Komal Chand questioned whether Government was aware of the amount of workers that had been made redundant from each estate.
The agriculture Minister in response, explained that 1,851 were from the Skeldon Sugar Estate, 1,181 were from the Rose Hall Estate, 1,480 were from the East Demerara Sugar Estate and 251 from the Wales Sugar Estate.
However, Chand maintained that in a document provided to him by GuySuCo through the Agriculture Ministry, there were significant differences in the numbers of workers who were made redundant.
He explained that according to document, 1,789 persons were fired from Skeldon, 1,356 from Rose Hall, 1,705 from East Demerara and 375 from Wales.
Holder however, contended that the statistics provided by Chand were from a different period.
Opposition Member, Gillian Persaud questioned the House as to whether the sum being sought included overtime payments which were still outstanding.
To this, Holder said “yes” but later explained that there was no overtime to be paid as it will be paid by GuySuCo.
In the midst of many heckling and sideline arguments, Persaud, in addition to other Opposition Members of Parliament, questioned why the $5B earmarked for severance payments had not been allocated in Budget 2018, since the closure of the Sugar estates had already been planned.
To this end, The Agriculture Minister answered vaguely “this is a supplementary paper.”
Rising to pose questions again, Chand asked Holder to provide a number of the managerial and security personnel that had been relieved of their jobs.
However, Holder explained that ties with the security staff had not yet been severed as protection was still needed at the various estates.
People’s Progressive Party MP, Neil Kumar requested an answer to how much monies in severance will be allocated to each Sugar Estate.
Holder posited that of the total amount, $609M will be paid to Skeldon workers, $705 to Rose Hall workers, $815M to East Demerara workers, and $150M for Wales.
As the “question and answer segment” continued, Opposition Member of Parliament Bishop Juan Edghill asked when it was first realized that in excess of 4,000 workers would become unemployed as a result of the estates’ closure.
Holder posited that this came to light on November 30, 2017, following a meeting to discuss the future of the estates.
Edghill further queried when did GuySuCo make representation for the severance payments of workers, to which the Agriculture Minister said December 18, 2017. He also said that the deadline for severance payment was marked at the end of January 2018.
Probed as to when the second half of the severance payments will be made, Holder replied “before December 31.”
In what is described as the largest retrenchment by a private or public corporation in recent history, GuySuCo as part of its plans to restructure the sugar industry has dismissed in excess of 4000 sugar workers from the aforementioned estates.
Only three estates, Albion in East Berbice, Blairmont in West Berbice and Uitvlugt on the West Coast of Demerara are being kept in operation.