The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has announced that plans are afoot to terminate the services of dozens of sugar estate workers, adding to the thousands already jobless.
The Union noted that these are workers that were retained following the closures of the Wales, Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara estates to maintain skeleton operations at the factories. These workers were involved mainly in security, drainage and irrigation and power house operations.
It reminded that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) had indicated that it was always its intention to have the workers terminated and it is now giving effect to its intent.
“GuySuCo has assured GAWU that it has monies to pay these workers their severance payments as it becomes due,” the Union said in a statement on Wednesday.
GAWU described the situation as saddening, saying more workers have had to lose their jobs occasioned by the “short-sighted and wrong haphazard decision” to minimise the sugar industry.
“While workers at Wales Estate, closed nearly two years ago, were being paid, GuySuCo at the same time is in the process of informing workers… that they would be terminated by year-end or sometime early next year,” the Union added.
The National Assembly recently approved $2.4 billion in severance payments for over 4000, Wales, Berbice and East Demerara sugar workers who were thrown on the breadline when Government closed several sugar factories.
Wales ended operations in December 2016 and some 375 workers who refused to take up employment at Uitvlugt, West Coast Demerara, remain without severance payments, putting hundreds of families on the breadline and causing economic crisis in surrounding communities.
The workers had taken to the streets, protesting for their severance to be paid.
Last week, some 238 workers who remained on the breadline received their payments while the remaining 109 workers who took up work at Uitvlugt got their severance on Wednesday.
As part of its plans to bring the heavily indebted and cash-strapped GuySuCo back into profitability and efficiency, Government made 5700 workers redundant in an effort to downsize the sector leaving a mere three estates – Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt – in operation.
The Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara (Enmore) estates were closed in December 2017 with no severance payments made to the workers.
However, back in January, Government secured $93 billion from the National Assembly to pay some of the ex-sugar workers from those three estates.
Those dismissed workers whose severance packages are $500,000 or less were paid in full by January 31, 2018, while those entitled more than that amount were only paid 50 per cent, with the remaining half to be paid in the second half of the year.
As such, since July, these workers and their families have been looking forward to the second tranche of the severance money from Government.
The coalition Government has made its position clear that the move to downsize the industry was a necessary one, as the monies used as annual bailouts were too much.
But the Opposition said even if this was the case, the laying off of workers could have been done in stages, to allow for them to prepare for alternative employment.
With valuation works for the closed estates having been completed, the Skeldon, Rose Hall-Canje, East Demerara/Enmore, and Wales Estates were advertised for sale.