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Govt buckles: announces remaining payment for sugar workers

first_img50% severance Just over one week after legal proceedings were filed for certain categories of redundant sugar workers to get their full severance pay, Government has now come out assuring that it is committed to paying out the second tranche of monies as promised.“Cabinet discussed payment of the second tranche of severance to sugar workers and reiterated its commitment to honouring the agreement to make the remaining severance payment within the time it promised,” Minister of State Joseph Harmon said on Thursday at the post-Cabinet press briefing.Back in January, Government had announced that some $2 billion was earmarked to pay the displaced sugar workers following the closure of the Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon estates last year as part of plans to downsize and reorganise the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).Those entitled to $500,000 and less were paid in full while those entitled to more, were only paid 50 per cent with the remaining monies to be paid in the second half of the year.However, Government had come in for much criticism over the move with stakeholders, including the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), saying it is a violation of the labour laws and called for full payments to be made. According to the laws, redundant workers are to be paid severance upon termination of their employment.In fact, the Union last month approach the court to get Government to make full severance payments, a move which Minister Harmon bashed.“I’ve learnt that some attorney has actually gone to court to get a determination that these monies are owed [but] Government has acknowledged that. Sometimes I really wonder why people are, in a sense, abusing the court system by going to get a declaration and saying to the court to tell the Government “you must pay” when in fact, the Government has already determined that it will pay and it will pay the second tranche in the second half of the year and we’ve committed ourselves to that,” he stated.Mixed reactionsThere have been mixed reactions to GAWU’s move of filing legal proceedings regarding the severance payment, with some sugar workers feeling this may further delay them getting their monies.However, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday posited that the move by GAWU should be supported because it may push Government to deliver on its promises. He noted that Government’s announcement now of its commitment to make the payments has no guarantee and could very well be a tactic used to convince GAWU to withdraw the court action.“I think it’s a wise move on the part of the Union, we support that. In fact, we’re hoping to go jointly but they have locus standi. There is no timeline that the Government has given so if the court case forces them to give a timeline and then they say but we can’t make the payment because there is a court case, GAWU can easily withdraw the court case and have the workers paid. But right now, they’re raising all of this money, there is confusion at the [GuySuCo] Board but workers can’t get their money,” Jagdeo stated.Source of fundingMinister Harmon explained on Thursday that Government had to source monies from the various ministries to pay the redundant workers.“…Several ministries were actually asked to do a cut back on their budgetary allocations and we anticipated that all of the monies will come from that process. Half of it has already been paid and the second tranche… will come directly from Government sources that will be paid in the second half of the year,” he noted.Harmon went on to explain that as the majority shareholder in the sugar company, which is currently heavily indebted and cash strapped, Government has to step forward and fulfil the payments. (Vahnu Manikchand)last_img

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