For­mer Wales su­gar work­ers re­ceive sev­er­ance $$

Stabroek News - - FRONT PAGE -

Scores of for­mer Wales Es­tate su­gar work­ers gath­ered yesterday in front of the old fac­tory bear­ing broad smiles in an­tic­i­pa­tion of col­lect­ing sev­er­ance pay­ments that had been with­held from them for two years.

Some said they are go­ing to use the money to in­vest in busi­nesses and oth­ers said they will use it to sup­port their house­holds.

The work­ers’ em­ploy­ment was ter­mi­nated on De­cem­ber 31st, 2016 but hav­ing not been paid their sev­er­ance at the point of be­ing made re­dun­dant, they took the state-owned Guyana Su­gar Cor­po­ra­tion (GuySuCo) to court. On Wed­nes­day, High Court Judge Sandil Kis­soon or­dered that the over 300 ex-work­ers re­ceive their paym­nets along with the in­ter­est owed to them.

While wait­ing for their pay­ments, the work­ers have been in­volved in mul­ti­ple picket ac­tions across their coun­try, de­mand­ing to be paid.

Deo­nauth Ramku­mar, who worked on the es­tate for 10 years, told Stabroek News yesterday that while he and other for­mer work­ers have been wait­ing “long, long” for what was owed to them, they felt good yesterday. The man was stand­ing amongst a group of friends who also showed up for their pay­ments. The ex-work­ers gath­ered out­side the now closed Wales Es­tate where they min­gled with their for­mer co­work­ers, smil­ing, laugh­ing and catch­ing up on old times.

Some of them have not seen each other since they were made re­dun­dant and were not only happy to be able to re­ceive their pay­ments af­ter a long wait, but to also see old faces that they “strug­gled with,” Ramku­mar said.

Un­like oth­ers, Ramku­mar was able to find an­other job af­ter be­ing re­trenched. How­ever, he ex­plained that the money will greatly as­sist him, es­pe­cially since Christ­mas Day is less than three weeks away.

“Since be­ing laid off, I go about the place and I find a job that I got right now and I carry on, you know. But I plan­ning on spend­ing the money for Christ­mas, so is a good, good thing we get­ting it be­fore Christ­mas. I work­ing too, so I plan­ning on do­ing some other things with it like try to in­vest it prop­erly,” he said.

An­other worker, Moses (only name given), who has given 25 years of ser­vice to the Es­tate as a har­vester, also ex­pressed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments.

“Me is a busi­ness­man now. I does sell pork and meat at the mar­ket and now I could in­vest in the busi­ness to make it big­ger and brighter and the money come in at the right time,” he said.

‘The right, right time’

While some have been able to find other means of earn­ing an in­come, oth­ers have not, and ac­cord­ing to one of the work­ers, who did not want to be named, “the money come at the right, right time.”

“I spend 25 years as a cane har­vester and I de good. Me hear cer­tain things pass and they gon pay we but we wait a long, long, long time to get this money. Ev­ery time we went to picket for this money you hear­ing this week, next week and so on but we fi­nally get it. Christ­mas is 18 days away and I feel nice. What me got to do is some work on me home and I gon put the rest in the bank. I’m not a type of per­son to go smoke and drink and so I got to put it to good use and put up the rest just in case,” the man said. He dis­closed that he has not had any consistent em­ploy­ment since be­ing laid off, al­though he has man­aged odd jobs around his com­mu­nity.

De­spite spend­ing two years pick­et­ing and tak­ing other ac­tion for their pay­ments, the man ex­plained that he had no doubt that the gov­ern­ment would have even­tu­ally paid them their money and that the tim­ing could not have been bet­ter.

Vaughn Spar­man and Sher­win Al­leyne also said that they were elated to fi­nally re­ceive their money. Spar­man said that the money is go­ing to as­sist him with com­plet­ing his house – some­thing he had put on hold since be­ing re­trenched - and he will use the re­main­der to ex­pand his in­come. Al­leyne said that he is mulling in­vest­ing the money in a busi­ness to sup­port his fam­ily.

The or­der made by Jus­tice Kis­soon on Wed­nes­day fol­lows a sim­i­lar one made by Jus­tice Fidela Corbin-Lin­coln in late Oc­to­ber for the pay­ment of the re­main­ing sev­er­ance to 2,198 laid off su­gar work­ers from the Skel­don, Rose Hall and East De­mer­ara su­gar es­tates.

On Oc­to­ber 24th, the Na­tional Assem­bly au­tho­rised gov­ern­ment to spend over $2 bil­lion in sup­ple­men­tary funds for the pay­ment of sev­er­ance to re­dun­dant su­gar work­ers from all the af­fected es­tates.

The pay­ments will con­tinue and slated to con­clude to­day.

For­mer Wales Es­tate work­ers who were wait­ing out­side its com­pound yesterday to re­ceive their sev­er­ance pay­ments.

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