Sugar workers of the Wales Estate staged a protest outside the premises of the estate on Wednesday in demand for their redundancy pay, after they were asked to move their operations to the Uitvlugt Estate.
These workers were retained by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to be engaged mainly in the paddy experiment, which the Corporation was pursuing in the former cane fields.
However, according to their Union they were instructed on Monday morning without any warning to report for work at the Uitvlugt Estate, which is located some 22 miles from their operation base.
The Guyana Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU) said the affected workers approached them and upon making enquiries they were told by the Corporation’s Head Office that the operations were taken over by National Industrial & Commercial Investments Limited – Special Purpose Unit (NICIL-SPU).
They said they were further informed that two workers would be retained to maintain the Wales Estate compound and the remainder would be sent to Uitvlugt Estate.
The GAWU, taking into account GuySuCo’s explanation, pointed out to the Corporation that the workers’ jobs have become redundant and, therefore, the payment of their severance benefits is necessary.
Notwithstanding the coherent position, GAWU noted that GuySuCo is adamant that the excess workers must take up work at Uitvlugt.
This, the Union believes is in contravention of the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay (TESPA) Act and furthermore sees GuySuCo’s “undemocratic” action as an attempt to make the workers to leave their jobs, thus denying them their rightful entitlements.
The actions that were taken here is somewhat similar to that which was taken by the corporation some time ago in regards to the Wales sugar workers, who were later forced to address the matter at the judicial level.
“That matter, we should add, is currently being heard and despite the unambiguity of the law, the Corporation continues to steadfastly hold on to its obstinate position. The GAWU is dismayed that it must, once again, call on the GuySuCo to respect workers’ rights and the protections afforded to them by the laws, agreements, conventions and practices,” the Union stated.
When the Wales Estate was downsized in 2016, just over a hundred sugar workers from the sugar estate suffered the same fate when they were also sent to the Uitvugt Sugar Estate for duties there.
Following their refusal to commence work 22 miles away and the Union citing that it was beyond the stipulation that the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act (TESPA) allows, the workers staged several protest actions calling for their severance payments.
However, GuySuCo maintained that the workers were not entitled to severance, with former acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the entity, Paul Bhim saying that GuySuCo had honoured all its obligations regarding the payment of severance at the Wales Estate.
GAWU being the representative body for the sacked workers took the matter to court in March of 2017.
Since losing their jobs in late 2016, the former Wales Estate workers, their relatives and other residents in the surrounding communities have complained of deleting finances and sustenance challenges.