Decrying the “callous way” the sugar workers have been treated by the Coalition Government, he noted that in addition to the fact that not all the sugar workers have received full severance payments, several others have complained about problems getting part payment and others have complained about the methods used to calculate the severance they qualify for.
Jagdeo also put acting Chief Executive Office of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Paul Bhim, on blast for claiming that workers from the Wales Sugar Estate, on the West Bank of Demerara, which was closed in December 2016, do not qualify for severance because they were offered work at the Uitvlugt Sugar Estate, on the West Coast of Demerara. “We have stooges like Paul Bhim saying that the workers cannot be paid…the are making excuses to not pay the severance,” the Opposition Leader said.
Notably, the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act states that: “On termination of his employment, an employee who completed one year or more of continuous employment with an employer shall be entitled to be paid by such employer a severance or redundancy allowance….” The law also makes clear that workers who have been offered work 10 miles or more away from their original place of employment also qualify for severance.
Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader also rejected the ‘government spins’ on comments he made regarding privatisation of the sugar industry. He said, “We have not changed positions. I said that the government has shut down the estates. It would be naive to think that they will reopen….the estates are already shut down and there is no possibility of opening. In that context, to make sure that there are jobs, I said that we will have to support private ventures that are done transparently. It is not that we are advocating for privatisation. There is a distinction.”
Asked about the three remaining sugar estates, Jagdeo noted that he hopes that the Government will keep these open as public entities. “The three other estates left, we want it to remain state-owned. But what we have seen is inept management,” he said.
On the subject of the sugar workers’ welfare, the Opposition Leader commended the Region 6 Regional Democratic Council (RDC) for moving to provide free transportation to the children of sacked sugar worker, to ensure that they can get to and from school.
That said, Jagdeo repeated his call for the Coalition Government to extend similar treatment to the sugar workers, as was done in the case of bauxite workers in Linden and surrounding communities under the former PPP/C government – support of subsidized water and electricity, training and the creation of a loan programme, among other measures of support.
“We will have to continue pressing this case,” the Opposition Leader assured.