Major protest hits Berbice.
– as redundant sugar workers take to the streets
By Malisa Playter-Harry
Scores of sugar workers from the Rose Hall estate, their families, opposition members, region five and six officials together with the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), yesterday morning braved heavy rainfall to protest in relation to the payments of severance for workers who received redundancy letters in December.
The march, which commenced just after 7:00 am with heavy police presence, saw protesters brandishing placards as they walked from the Rose Hall Estate to Canje turn and returned to the point of origin. They were prevented by the police from playing music as they marched along but this coupled with the heavy rains did not deter the sugar workers and their families.
Komal Chand, President of GAWU, told the gathering that persons need to “come out and fight”.
“If you got the pension money, why don’t you use it to pay the people the severance pay? You cannot take sugar workers now and want them to be engineers tomorrow and carpenters tomorrow. Where are the jobs?”
Chand added that the previous discussions and announcements that were made about alternative jobs such as aquaculture, citrus farming, beef and dairy cattle etc., are yet to take shape. According to him,
GAWU made several proposals on how to save sugar, “we talk about the Skeldon Co-Gen facility, last year although production was poor, they sell electricity to the national grid and GPL and they get $9.5 Billion. That $9.5 Billion and from sugar sales last year, you didn’t need any money from Government to keep the factory going”.
In concluding, the GAWU head appealed that the severance must be paid, noting that they are entitled to it.
“The immediate struggle is for you to get your severance pay. The question is…when?”, Chand charged.
The hundreds of workers are worried that they might not receive their severance pay and they might be placed in a predicament of which workers of the Wales Estate are currently facing…hundreds still to be paid severance promised by the government.