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High Court halts sending home, re-deployment of Wales Estate workers

FLASH BACK: Workers gathered outside the Wales Estate.

FLASH BACK: Workers gathered outside the Wales Estate.

The Full Court of the High Court on Friday ordered the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) to halt the sending home or re-deployment of hundreds of sugar workers stationed at the Wales Sugar Estate until they are consulted in keeping with the law.

The order was secured by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), represented by its General Secretary Seepaul Narine, and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) whose representative is its President, Kenneth Joseph.

“We verily believe that the Respondent are deliberately excluding us from negotiations so that they can exploit and manipulate the workers,” the unions said in court papers seen by Demerara Waves Online News.

When the case is heard and determined by Justices William Ramlal and Diana Insanally, they want the High Court to award damages of more than GYD$1 million for breach of statutory duty owing under the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act, Cap.99:08, Laws of Guyana.

The issue dates back to January 20, 2016 when Guysuco informed the unions at a meeting of a decision to close the Wales Estate. The unions said so far the State-owned corporation has not kept its promise to inform the unions of the new venture that will replace sugar cultivation and production, the names of the workers of the Wales Estate who will be re-deployed to Uitvlugt Estate, Uitvlugt, West Coast Demerara; and the names of the Wales Estate workers who will be rendered redundant.

While GAWU has been formally notified on May 22, 2016 of the names of the employees who have opted for redundancy in keeping with the  Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act 1997, NAACIE says ot  has not received any such or similar correspondence.

In this regard, the unions said in court papers that Guysuco’s alleged failure to consult with NAACIE amounts to “a flagrant violation and contravention of “the Termination of the Employment and Severance Pay Act”  which mandates Guysuco to consult with the unions before any such or similar decision can be lawfully made.

GAWU and NAACIE argued that if Guysuco continues to fail to consult with their trade unions, the “workers are not receiving the best available option, terms and conditions.”

They further contended that the  right of Trade Unions to participate in and be part of negotiations involving employee and employer is a sacred and sacrosanct right fought for and won by workers after centuries of struggle.

GAWU and NAACIE want the High Court to prevent Guysuco from severing the employment of workers of the Wales Estate, Wales, West Bank Demerara, and rendering them redundant unless and until they are consulted.

High Court Judge, Roxanne George had last month denied an application for a similar injunction “on the ground that the Application does not disclose any urgency.”

Representing the unions are Attorneys-at-Law, Anil Nandlall, Euclin Gomes, Mr. Sase Gunraj, Manoj Narayan Sasha Mahadeo.