Wales Estate closure


While the High Court case regarding the non-consultations of unions over the severance and redeployment of workers attached to the Wales Sugar Estate continues, some 99 workers believe that in the meantime, they should be paid for the time they have been unemployed. According to information reaching Guyana Times, the workers have petitioned the Wales Estate manager for payment in lieu of work.

This newspaper was told the workers are contending that their severance packages were approved since March 22, 2016, and as such, are requesting that they be paid from April 22, 2016 up to point at which they will be paid their redundancy allowance. The petition, along with letters sent to the estate’s manager, was seen by the publication.

“I hereby request that I be paid my redundancy allowance and payment in lieu of work from April 22, 2016 up to the point of the payment of my redundancy allowance in keeping with Clause 6(2)(i) of the Collective Labour Agreement between my Union, GAWU, and the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc,” one of the letters stated.

After the Sugar Corporation confirmed the closure, workers, without the requisite union consultation were given the option of transferring to Uitvlugt, West Coast Demerara, or receiving severance packages. As many of the workers were against the move to transfer to Uitvlugt, they opted to receive their severance.

Using the injunction as its justification, GuySuCo has maintained that it was unable to pay the 105 Wales sugar workers their severance packages even though these workers on March 22 received letters which stated that they would have been paid on May 4. The Sugar Corporation then gave employment to six of the 105 workers, suggesting that 99 remain without the Estate’s employment. Many of these workers have said that they have found some difficulty in garnering alternative jobs.

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has rejected the Sugar Corporation’s stance of non-payment, noting that the agreement between the workers and GuySuCo was reached before the injunction was granted.

The court action was first brought on after GuySuCo began discussions with individual employees of the Wales estate to negotiate severance packages, without informing or involving the unions. At one point, workers had been given a three-day ultimatum to make their decisions but GuySuCo later backpedalled from this move.

Unions, GAWU and NAACIE are also seeking damages in excess of $1 million for breach of statutory duty owing under the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act, Cap 99:08, Laws of Guyana. The judges had granted an interim injunction, restraining GuySuCo from proceeding to implement their decision to sever the employees until the hearing and determination of a Summons returnable in Chambers.

GuySuCo has since requested time to respond to the litigation. Sugar operations at Wales will close by the end of 2016.