Treatment of sugar workers unforgiveable and criminal

first_imgDear Editor,It is awful to see, on a daily basis, the vicious assault on sugar workers. This assault started almost immediately after the May 2015 elections.APNU/AFC promised “change”, and among the changes they promised was that greater security and respect would be extended to sugar workers, including an annual 20 percent increase in wages and benefits.Some sugar workers, though skeptical, placed their destiny in Moses Nagamootoo, Ramjattan, and others in Region Six and Five, and provided some of the critical votes that APNU/AFC needed to take over Government. They exercised their democratic right and opted for “change”. They have been betrayed; and, today, sugar workers are the poster child for betrayal.The thing is that as the assault continues unabated since May 2015, their champions, like Nagamootoo and Ramjattan, are AWOL, missing in action.The latest assault on sugar workers is the now frequent late payment of their wages. Last week, sugar workers were paid four days late, without an apology and without an explanation. The vast majority of these workers live from paycheck to paycheck. Any delay in receiving their paychecks poses unconscionable difficulties for their families. The media continue to expose this egregious violation of the labour laws of Guyana. Every time wage payments have been delayed, senior officials of GuySuCo have confirmed the late payments, but only off-the-record and unofficially. GuySuCo refuses formally to communicate with workers, or with anyone.GAWU has confirmed that late payment of wages to sugar workers has become a norm these days. Late payment of wages to the sugar workers is not just unacceptable, it is illegal.The President, who recently declared that paying severance to sugar workers whose jobs were ripped from them is hemorrhaging the treasury, is silent about late payment of wages to workers. The prime minister, who bombastically deemed himself the champion of sugar workers, is silent; even though he went to his home village of Whim to launch the AFC’s LGE campaign. The Agriculture Minister is, as usual, not just silent, but nowhere to be found. He continues to behave as if he has no role to play.The Finance Minister may still be out of the country, having found it necessary to be carnivalling in Brooklyn earlier this month. The Social Protection Minister and her junior minister responsible for labour appear not to know or not to care.Khemraj Ramjattan simply does not want to talk to sugar workers anymore, and MPs such as Charandass no longer find sugar workers relevant.More than 7,000 sugar workers have lost their jobs, and most of them have either received none or only part of their severance.It is more than nine months since that severance was due for many, and some have been owed now for almost two years. Severance is due to an employee at the time his job is taken away because of closure or down-sizing. This is Guyana’s law, and it is also international law.There is no room for prevarication on this matter. The only word from the President is that the severance is a drain on the national treasury; no word on whether GuySuCo, a Government public entity, will pay soon, and whether the workers will be paid with interest.Those who are lucky to still be working are now subjected to late and deferred payments for wages earned. They have worked without a pay increase for three years (2015, 2016 and 2017), and it is unlikely that there will be an increase in 2018, making it an unprecedented four straight years.Their annual production incentives have essentially been dumped. In 2015 it was reduced, and none has since been negotiated. Land which was promised to them is being taken up by the Government, or being offered for sale to private investors and friends and families of the Government.Guyana made the list of shameful countries because of how we treat prisoners. Guyana deserves being on the list because of how we treat sugar workers.The silence of this Government is shameful, a disgrace, and makes them complicit in another illegal assault on sugar workers. GAWU has spoken up.Will FITUG and the GTUC speak up? Will the Guyana Human Rights advocates stand up and speak out? Who is willing to stand up and speak out against this injustice?Sincerely,Leslie Ramsammylast_img

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