High Court orders GuySuCo to pay 1 month’s salary to transferred Wales cane cutters
Nearly two months after the High Court ordered that ex-Wales sugar workers be paid severance with interest; union representatives had to take legal action again to ensure that workers who took up employment at Uitvlugt received their one month’s pay benefit.
This came via the determination of Justice Sandil Kissoon who has ordered the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to pay retrenched Wales cane cutters who worked at Uitvlugt Estate following the closure of Wales Estate at the end of 2016.
These workers were meant to be paid one month’s pay in lieu of notice as of November 30, 2018, with the Court further ordering that they be paid four per cent
interest per annum up to December 5, 2018.
According to the representative body, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the January 21, 2019, order states to GuySuCo: “If you fail to comply with the terms of this order, you will be held in contempt of court and may be liable to imprisonment or to have your assets confiscated”.
Though the unemployed workers have received their benefits; those who went to Uitvlugt received severance payments, but did not benefit from the one month’s payout, GAWU noted.
The workers, along with their union have been saying all along that under the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act (TESPA); they could not be compelled to travel 22 miles from their point of origin to the Uitvlugt Estate.
“It was dismaying notwithstanding the clear and unambiguous section of TESPA, the state-owned GuySuCo refused bluntly to respect the workers’ rights. For us it was disconcerting that the corporation took on such an adamant position, going as far as issuing covert and overt threats to the concerned workers, though it was clearly on the wrong side of the law,” GAWU noted in a statement issued Tuesday.
Under TESPA, the employer is obligated to sever the workers when it was unable to provide similar work within a 10-mile radius. GAWU is left wondering if GuySuCo’s previous stance not to pay workers was shaped by the authorities giving guidance and instructions. GAWU is hoping for good judgment to prevail.
In early November 2018, the National Assembly gave approval for almost $2.5 billion to cater for the remaining severance to 4723 sugar workers.
The High Court had ruled in 2018 that all workers severed by GuySuCo must be paid with interest ranging from four to six per cent. Wales Estate was shut down in December 2016 while Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon were closed in 2017.
People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) presidential candidate Irfaan Ali has promised supporters that his Party will re-open the closed sugar estates should the PPP/C be elected to office.