Uitvlugt estate workers, pensioners protest new bank account requirement

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…Workers told they will not be paid unless account info provided, says GAWU 

The Uitvlugt workers protesting (composite photo)

Several workers and pensioners of the Uitvlugt Estate, located on the West Coast of Demerara, took part in a picketing exercise outside of the Estate’s administrative office on Wednesday, in protest of, what the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) says is, the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (GuySuCo’s) unyielding position that workers and pensioners would not receive payments unless they create bank accounts to facilitate same.

According to GAWU, the protesters related that the Corporation has been ignoring their concerns and requests for their payments to be made via cash and in close proximity to where they live.

“The state-owned company is now telling the aggrieved that soon they will not be paid unless they submit their banking information to the estate. While we would want to believe the Corporation knows that withholding workers’ wages in an illegal act by itself, the GuySuCo’s belligerently disrespectful attitude towards long-standing practices, laws, and even international conventions, in recent times, has us believing that the Company is least bothered by the fact and the stain of notoriety” said GAWU in a statement on the issue.

The protestors said that they indicated to GuySuCo that going in the direction they seek will place greater pressures on them.

They said that they will now be forced to expend several hundred dollars weekly in order to travel to the banks located at Vreed-en-Hoop and Parika to withdraw their wages.

Moreover, the protestors worry that they may be forced to make more than one trip should ATMs be inoperable when they wish to engage in their transactions.

They related that with pay rates frozen in the sugar industry since 2014; lesser work opportunities; and a reduction in incentive payments, among other things, they can “hardly bear the costs GuySuCo is asking them to fetch.”

The pensioners and the workers said they also pointed out to the management of the Estate the real possibility and fear of being robbed after they exit the bank.

Meanwhile, GAWU outlined that apart from the concerns raised by the workers and the pensioners, GuySuCo’s thrust “runs contrary to the Labour Act which requires at Section 19(1) that wages be paid in money. But apart from that, the Act goes on, at Section 19(4) to mandate employers to pay wages at convenient places near to the workplace. This is noteworthy and the Corporation, we believe, should not ignore this fact nor the workers reasonable positions.”

GAWU says it stands with the workers and the pensioners and is calling on GuySuCo to do what is right and decent and to pay the workers at their regular pay offices as they have been doing for a long time now.

In April of this year retired employees of GuySuCo protested outside of the LBI Community Centre over the company’s new requirement to have their pensions sent to the commercial banks for payment.

The pensioners are strongly contending that the change in the payment mechanism places additional burdens on them

GuySuCo, in their response to the concerns raised, had said that one of the reasons that they are going this route is for increased security.

“One of the reasons is security, as an increased security measure for both the corporation and as well as for the pensioners. And this is not to be applied to pensioners alone but we are hoping to apply this system across the board for all employees. So, we are moving away from the system where you have to deal with a lot of cash in hand as part of upgrading our financial security and to minimise risks as it relates to how we manage our financial transactions” said a GuySuCo spokesperson.

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