THE thousands of sugar workers who received severance letters from the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) will start receiving their severance packages in January, Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder disclosed on Thursday.
Holder told the media that while he could not state when specifically the payout would be made, the month has been identified. He explained that by virtue of a Cabinet decision made on Tuesday, the sugar workers can expect their monies next month.
Asked whether Government budgeted for the severance payout, the minister said, “I am advised that money has been made available…you can verify with the Ministry of Finance. Certainly, money is there in the budget to make payments.”
Additionally, Holder said GuySuCo needs approximately $4.6B to payout severance packages to the affected workers. “…the Ministry has an allocation for GuySuCo of $6.3B but other funds are supposed to be available through other avenues involving subsidies from the Ministry of Finance,” Holder told reporters gathered at the Ministry of Finance.
Meanwhile, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), one of the unions representing sugar workers across the country, on Thursday said GUYSUCO has no monies to pay the redundant sugar workers, and called on the company to retain the workers in “suitable employment” until such time the workers can receive their severance packages. “The GAWU was dismayed and surprised to learn during an engagement with the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo) yesterday, (December 20, 2017) that the sugar company has absolutely no monies to pay the some 4,000 sugar workers whose jobs have been deemed redundant at Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara Estates.”
The union said that the affected workers after December 29, will no longer be employed with the sugar company and as such they are expected to receive their payments at that time to sustain themselves and their families. “The Corporation’s admission is in complete contrast to what Government officials have been saying over the past days. We drew to GUYSUCO’s attention for instance, that Minister of State, Joseph Harmon pointed out that a significant chunk of the State support flowing from the 2018 Budget was intended to offset the severance payments to the redundant workers.
The Corporation, however, clarified this was not the case and the $6.3B allocation was intended solely and wholly to support the operations of the three estates that would remain under GUYSUCO’s control,” the Union stated.
Additionally, GAWU said it queried the $2.5B loan the Corporation recently obtained and was informed by GuySuCo that the sum was intended to sustain its operations until the 2018 first crop commences. However, the Union noted that GuySuCo’s explanation differed from that of GuySuCo’s Chairman, Professor Clive Thomas. Thomas, in the December 7 edition of the Guyana Chronicle, was reported as saying that the company has been able to negotiate for an advance on a temporary loan from a local bank to the tune of $2.5B. The loan, he said, would not only assist in paying the workers their severance, but aid in covering the company’s expenses for the remainder of the year. In that article, Professor Thomas said workers are to receive their severance by December 31. GAWU said it was informed that the earliest the workers would be paid could be towards the end of February, 2018.
“In our engagement, the company advised our Union that sometime earlier in the year the Corporation had advised the Government on the need for support to finance the payments and, at that time, a preliminary figure was submitted. And, then a few days ago, an updated figure to meet the payment was submitted to the Administration,” the statement added.
The recently submitted figure, GUYSUCO informed, was still not final as the Corporation’s audit department was examining the data. The audit process would be completed sometime in January, 2018 and, thereafter the final sum required from the Government would be submitted.
“At that time, it follows, the Government would have to consider the request and, in all likelihood, approach the National Assembly for a supplementary allocation in order to meet the expenditure. That aspect will take a few weeks at least, and it seems that the earliest the workers would be paid could very well be towards the end of February, 2018,” the Union said, noting that the reality is “most upsetting.”
“Our Union, in view of the Corporation’s depressing information, has requested that GuySuCo retains the workers in suitable employment until it is in a position to honour the workers severance payments.”