Wales’ cane cutters severance pay demand covered by law

first_imgDear Editor,The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has noted the comments made by Agriculture Minister Noel Holder and GuySuCo CEO (ag) Paul Bhim in relation to the call made by the 350-odd cane cutters of Wales for them to be paid their severance payments. The Wales cane cutters are the only group of redundant sugar workers who are being denied their severance pay although they are entitled to such payments arising from the closure of Wales Estate in December, 2016.The Agriculture Minister, in the February 06, 2018 Guyana Times, is reported to have said, “…careful consideration has to be taken into account, because making such a move as it could potentially cost the Government to be placed in a bad situation”. We are at a loss as to the ‘bad situation’ the Minister referred to. His reference in the Guyana Times article to the Rose Hall workers can only be likened to the invocation of a red-herring. The Rose Hall matter is distinct and, we believe, should not be convoluted with the situation at Wales.The Minister’s stance that a judicial adjudication is necessary we see as nothing more than the Government and the GuySuCo’s intention to punish the workers for reason/s best known to them.It seems from the article that the Minister is not aware of all the relevant details with regards to the issue. Also, we expect that he deals with the matter impartially, and possibly have knowledgeable person/s examine the matter carefully. We would want to believe that such an approach may very well cause the Minister to reconsider his stance.Following the Minister’s statement, we saw in the February 07, 2018 Guyana Times the GuySuCo CEO (ag) saying that the Wales cutters “…were at risk of self-termination… based on the Collective Labour Agreement signed between GuySuCo and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU)”. We recognize the GuySuCo CEO (ag) is repeating a similar statement made during 2017 by a lower level Corporation official, which our Union had then pointed out was patently unfounded and false.We wish again to point out that should the Corporation deem the concerned workers as having self-terminated their services, then it would be engaged in contemptuous behavior, bearing in mind that the matter is engaging the attention of the Courts.But more than that, the GAWU/GuySuCo Collective Labour Agreement at no point mentions or provides that a worker is deemed self-terminated after some period of absence from work.The CEO (ag) goes on in the article to say, “…we require the workers at Uitvlugt… [w]e are still insisting that we need them to go…” We could not help but wonder if it was the same person making this statement, considering that just a few paragraphs before, in the same article, we noted the virtual threats being made to the workers. Moreover, if indeed the Corporation is so desirous of having these workers going to take up work at Uitvlugt, then certainly a prudent management would have engaged the Union and the workers in discussions to examine the feasibility.The GAWU suspects that the statement is not sincere, but is rather a ploy through a veiled threat to force the workers to leave the industry, thereby giving up their service, and with it their severance allowance; a rather wicked ploy. We are not unaware that large areas of the Uitvlugt cultivation have been allocated to farmers, and for the areas that remain under the estate’s supervision, the Uitvlugt labour force is obviously sufficient.Mr Bhim, in the article, lamented the turnout of cane cutters to work but, seemingly, fails to connect the obvious dots. At a time when workers’ real wages have declined by about 7 per cent and their nominal wages have fallen by 15 per cent between 2015 and 2016 alone, the situation for the workers is not encouraging. The reality of no pay rise, no API, cutting down of benefits, disrespect of customs and practices, among other things, must have their effects. Such a situation we saw and experienced in the last half of the 1980s, and it was corrected only when the workers rates-of-pay were reflective of the cost-of-living.Clearly, it seems the GuySuCo has not learnt from its previous mistakes, and therefore, from all indications, may be repeating them.The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers UnionRegardslast_img read more