The Wales cane harvesters who are yet to receive their severance pay from the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo) since December, 2016 were given food hampers by the Guyanese Solidarity Movement- New York (GSM-NY).
The food hampers comprised of, among other things, rice, oil, split peas, flour, sugar, potatoes, and salt.
The GSM-NY through financial donations mainly from Guyanese in New York and members of the Movement made the donation possible.
The displaced workers, according to the Movement, were most pleased by the donations, especially at this year-end festive season. Many related that following the closure of the estate they have been finding it difficult to make ends meet for themselves and families and they were very grateful for the assistance and expressed their gratitude to the GSM and others.
Assisting in the exercise was Komal Chand, President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and Opposition Members of Parliament, Dr Frank Anthony and Dhramkumar Seeraj, among others.
According to the GSM-NY in a release, the President of the Guyana Rice Producers Association (GRPA), Leikha Rambrich supplied 305, 22-pound bags of rice at a special reduced price. The other food items were secured at a discounted price while Mikes Pharmacy donated multivitamins – all of which assisted in the goodwill activity.
For the workers, GSM-NY noted that their right to severance pay is not being respected and honoured. The Movement said that the Government and the GuySuCo continues to push them to take up work at Uitvlugt Estate contrary to the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act (TESPA).”
“Despite the unambiguity in the law, GuySuCo remains intransigent and the GAWU has been forced to challenge the Corporation’s stance in court. Disappointingly, several months have gone by and a date for the hearings to commence has not been set. Given the significance and importance of the matter, and the number of lives who are impacted, we continue to press that the matter be given some priority” said the GSM-NY.
The Movement recalled that cane harvesters in July, of 2017 had appealed to President David Granger to intervene to have their severance pay matter settled.
The President had responded to the workers in early August, 2017 informing that he had referred the matter to Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder for his attention and that the workers would hear from the Minister.
However, GSM-NY posited that despite the President’s assurance the workers have yet to hear a word from Minister Holder. “For us, it seems that the Minister can be least be bothered by the workers concern and probably is unmoved by the plight they and their family face. Nevertheless, we believe that the President, as the Head of State, owes the workers concerned a proper response.”
In what is described as the largest retrenchment by a private or public corporation in recent history, GuySuCo is expected to send home an estimated 4000 workers by the end of the year as part of plans to restructure the sugar industry.
Only three Estates, Albion in East Berbice, Blairmont in West Berbice and Uitvlugt on the West Coast of Demerara are being kept in operation.