first_imgWales closure– as High Court still to hear severance matterSome four months have passed since counsel for the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Ashton Chase, SC, compiled and filed documents for the matter regarding the non-payment of severance packages to hundreds of sugar workers to be called up at the High Court. While the reasons for the delay in the commencement of court proceedings remain unclear, GAWU General Secretary Seepaul Narine feels many of the workers who were attached to the Wales Sugar Estate are left to face life with depleted finances.Narine told Guyana Times earlier this week that the Union has yet to receive word from the courts pertaining to the delay. “We are waiting on the Judge to affix a date for the hearing. It’s a few months now and we are disappointed that the court is taking such a long time. We have no indication as to why it’s taking so long and why the matter is not up for hearing as yet and people are there, they’re not having work. They’re just wondering; they’re in the wilderness,” observed the GAWU General Secretary.Over the years, GAWU has filed a number of court actions but according to the Union representative, it is not a usual occurrence that cases take such lengthy periods of time before it’s called up for hearings, whether at the preliminary stage or for full trials.“It is not normal for matters to take so long; we don’t know what is the reason. We would all like [the case to be heard] immediately. Workers are being affected and it’s in the interest of all to get it called,” the GAWU General Secretary pointed out.GAWU President Komal Chand had told Guyana Times in May that many workers were at that time, depending on the outstanding payments to make investments for their future.“It’s bothersome as the people are depending on their money to see how they could work on their future endeavours,” Chand highlighted on May 21.While several workers had their service transferred to Uitvlugt Sugar Estate, the remaining workers were promised severance payments, some since December 2016 and others by February 2017. However, it was at a community-level meeting between Wales residents and several Government Ministers, including Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, that Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan told the gathering that Government had no money to pay the severance to which the workers are entitled. Some former workers informed this publication on Saturday that senior officials at the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) are reportedly still operating out of their offices at the Wales Estate. However, much of the equipment, including the cane gantry has been reportedly transferred to the Uitvlugt Estate.The Wales Estate Closure was rationalised by Government as a cost-saving measure due to billions of dollars that was allocated to the declining sugar industry. Since then, the scaling down of other estates across the country has been announced. Many stakeholders had however called for social impact studies to be carried out to assess how communities across the sugar belt would be affected with sure closures. Some estimates have pegged a figure of some 10,000 sugar workers being directly affected by estate closures, in addition to their family members and the local economies that depend on the sugar industry. (Samuel Sukhnandan)last_img read more