by Zena Henry
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) has restated its commitment to ensuring that every sugar worker who contributed funds to the union as at the end of May last would be paid.
This statement comes as hundreds of sugar workers are turning up at the union’s headquarters to retrieve contributions that would have been deducted from their monthly salary to the credit union arm.
The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has failed, despite deducting the money from the workers’ salaries, to pay it over to the union during a six month period. The unpaid bill has mounted to over $154M, forcing GAWU to pay workers money from a bank loan during in the interim.
GAWU President Komal Chand told Demerara Waves Tuesday June 16 that the agency could not continue on this course. The union made the information public weeks after the new government had taken office following the 2015 elections.
However, should GuySuCo, which has failed to date, to pay over any of the workers’ contributions continue on this route, “that would be a matter between the union and GuySuCo and we will take the necessary action,” he warned.
It was related that in addition to the 400 workers that flocked the union’s headquarters on High Street and Wight’s Lane, Kingston, Georgetown on Tuesday ĺĺthe day before, some 325 persons were back at the location to uplift their contribution that would have been deducted from their pay for May.
Chand said, “It is understandable that persons would seek to uplift their savings from the agency,” comparing the scenario to a failing bank with members hustling to clean their accounts. Some of these persons would have been receiving a monthly payback from the deductions, while others would have left their contributions to build up. However with the current situation those savings are being cleaned, Demerara Waves understands.
Persons have been coming from as far as Berbice and about the Demerara region to uplift their cash. Some persons complained however that while they were receiving some amount of money, they were being asked to come back next month to retrieve the rest.
Mohamed Shakor said he has been cleaning the trenches of the sugar industry since 1988. Anthony Soochan said he had been with the industry since 1990. Both persons expressed disappointment that their contributions were not paid over by the sugar company.
They said they are fearful that they might not receive their money after hearing that contributions were not paid and sought to retrieve what the union have for them.
Meanwhile, it is suggested that the credit union services have been suspended to only sugar workers while those in the other places of employment need not worry. GAWU told its members two weeks ago to cease all deductions by GuySuCo as the money was not being remitted to the credit union. Chand told Demerara Waves that he believes the money went into the ailing sugar company’s operation but sees this as being “illegal” given their signed agreement.
GuySuCo has an Interim Management Committee assessing the shape of the industry since the CEO Dr Rajendra Singh was fired from the highly indebted low prodycing company.
Chand hopes to meet with the new administration to discuss their plans for the industry.