Govt accused of playing games with welfare of sugar workers

January 12, 2020 0 Comments

first_img– as new attorneys retained to challenge request for severanceAttorney-at-Law Anil Nandlall, representing the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) in the matter regarding severance payments for ex-sugar workers, has claimed that Government is playing with the lives and welfare of those persons, and another legal challenge has been mounted.Nandall told media operatives on Tuesday outside the courts following a court hearing that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has now retained the services of popular law firm Cameron and Shepherd, with Attorneys Ralph Ramkarran, Nikhil Ramkarran and Kamal Ramkarran.While Government has promised to pay the sugar workers, Nandlall said, through NICIL and GuySuCo, they are trying to get the sugar workers’ case thrown out using all kinds of technical legal arguments.“It would appear that, at this late stage, the sugar workers’ struggle continues. That though they have been dismissed without cause; they have been rendered redundant; their families have been put on the breadline without a word of consultation with them; and the fact that they have no alternative employment provided to them; and now, even to get their Severna pay, it’s a struggle,” he opined.Nandall said Ramkarran Senior raised a series of objections and has filed an application to strike out the workers’ claim; and lawyers hired by NICIL have done the same. “The lawyers now have obviously been instructed by the Government, NICIL and GuySuCo to come here and play games and frustrate the workers. And I believe what is playing out here is the true intent of the Government.”The matter will be heard again on September 4, when the defence have to file an answer to certain contentions the other parties in the matter have filed.Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, had said during a post Cabinet press briefing in early July that Government would be making the second tranche of severance payments to 4283 retrenched sugar workers at the end of 2018, when it said it would.This is despite the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) filing legal proceedings against the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), to which GuySuCo has transferred all of its assets.GAWU, which is the legitimate trade union for the sugar workers, is seeking “all severance or redundancy payments or allowances due, owing and payable under the provisions of the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act, Chapter 96:01”, paid to the 4283 employees attached to the Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara Sugar Estates, who were made redundant in 2017.In January of this year, Government had announced that redundant sugar estate workers whose severance payments are $500,000 and less will be paid in full by the end of January 2018, while workers receiving in excess of the aforementioned sum would attain 50 per cent of their severance benefits by the end of January, and the other 50 per cent at the end of 2018.GAWU, in its proceedings, is contending that it is illegal for Government to pay the severance in two tranches, as this is against the letter and spirit of what is outlined by Section 21 of the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay (TESPA) Act.In the legal documents, it was outlined that the redundant workers were to receive their redundancy allowance/severance payment no later than December 29, 2017.The legal team, which is led by Attorney Anil Nandlall, stated that the more than 4000 workers were paid only a portion of their severance payments.The lawyers highlighted that even while this was ongoing, GuySuCo transferred all of its assets for those three estates under the Finance Minister to NICIL as per notice published in the Official Gazette (Extraordinary) of Guyana on December 30, 2017.Lawyers also observed that GuySuCo has been collateralised as security for a $30 billion loan that it has or is borrowing from commercial banks.The attorneys are seeking an order from the court to direct the respondents –GuySuCo and NICIL, their officers, servants and agents – to “pay forthwith to the said 4280 employees of GuySuCo – and members of the applicant, all severance or redundancy payments or allowances due, owing and payable under the provisions of TESPA.”last_img read more