GAWU and NAACIE appeal closure decision
Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union ( GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) have appealed Chief Justice (a.g.) Roxanne George-Wiltshire’s November 10, 2017 denial of our application to quash Guysuco and Cabinet’s decision to close the East Demerara and Rose Hall Estates.
Our Unions contended before the learned Chief Justice that the closure decisions were improper and there were insufficient consultations between the Government and GuySuCo, on one hand, and the GAWU and the NAACIE, on the other. We pointed out to the Courts that consultations between the Unions, the Opposition and the Government regarding the future of the sugar industry cannot be deemed as acceptable noting that just about four (4) hours in total were spent on the three (3) occasions the parties met. GAWU and NAACIE contended that we have a legitimate expectation to be consulted in a comprehensive manner and pointed to previous instances where GuySuCo involved our Unions extensively in considering decisions which would have affected the employment of workers.
GAWU and NAACIE illustrated that the Sugar Commission of Inquiry (CoI) spent several hundred man hours over many days in reviewing information, considering submissions from several individuals and organizations, and visiting the estates and interacting with workers and managerial personnel and at the end of that process recommended that closure should not be pursued. Our Unions contended too that the closure decision clearly was not informed by the full consideration of all the factors which we have pointed out especially that a socio-economic study was not pursued though it was necessary. Furthermore, we argued that the closure decision did not follow the clearly set out procedure contained in the Trade Union Recognition Act and the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act. Our Unions are seeking that the Government and GuySuCo engage in a proper and full consultation as we hold that such an exercise will result in a different decision being taken.
We believe our appeal has great merit and substance and believe that the learned Chief Justice (a.g.) erred in her determination to deny our application. Recognizing that time for the closure decision is quickly approaching, we have intended to file submissions seeking that the Appeal Court considers our matter at the soonest.
Compensation for displaced Wales’ workers
Separately, our Unions are seeking that the High Court requires the State to pay damages to the exWales Estate workers. In our legal submissions, our Unions are arguing that the State, as the owner of GuySuCo, by virtue of several articles of the Constitution is bound to provide suitable alternative employment or income support in lieu of work to the displaced workers for the rest of their working-life. We have also sought that the affected workers receive a pension equivalent to what they would have received had they been employed by GuySuCo.
Our Unions have argued that sugar workers have a fair expectation to employment until they attain pensionable age with many following their parents, grandparents and other forefathers into the sugar industry. Furthermore, GAWU and NAACIE are arguing that sugar workers possess unique skills which are not portable presenting a grave difficulty for them to secure employment beyond the industry.
It is intended that similar actions would be pursued regarding the workers of Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara Estate when the decisions concerning those estates fructify. We are also hopeful that this matter would receive speedy attention given the difficult times that have beset the people of Wales.
Our Unions are fortified in our determination to protect the workers who will be affected by the plans for sugar. We believe that we should use every available option in our efforts to safeguard the workers, their families and their communities, who are seemingly, at this time, can be said to be up the river without a paddle. Clearly, it is our strongly held view, that they are no real or workable alternatives for the displaced sugar workers and they, their families and their communities will suffer tremendously from the cold-hearted approach to the industry. (Press Release)