Wales closure fallout… says Wales workers right in demanding severance package… GAWU slams Govt for misinformation over severanceThe People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has again come to the defence of the hundreds of displaced cane harvesters of the Wales Sugar Estate, who over the past week have been clamouring for what they said are their well-deserved severance packages.The party, in a statement issued on Tuesday, condemned the “high-handed approach of Government in its dealings with the sugar industry” and pointed to the rigorous economic toll it is taking on the country.Alluding to the situation at the West Bank Demerara sugar factory, the PPP stressed that it does not support Government’s callous decisions.GAWU President Komal Chand“The cruelty of the Government is demonstrated by the treatment meted to the workers of Wales Estate. Having closed the industry without any consultations with the workers or their union, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change Government had refused to comply with the Severance Pay Act. This forced the union to approach the courts for an order compelling [Guyana Sugar Corporation] GuySuCo to negotiate with the union”.The parliamentary Opposition said even after obtaining the order of the court, and following negotiations with the union, GuySuCo still refuses to pay the agreed severance packages to the workers, causing the current protest action.“The PPP strongly supports the workers in their just demand that their severance package be paid immediately and accordance with the law,” the Party said in a release on Wednesday.MisinformationMeanwhile, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has also lashed out at the Agriculture Ministry which on Monday stated that all redundant workers from Wales Estate were paid their severance payments.“The Ministry’s assertion is plainly misleading and our Union wonders whether the Ministry is intently misinforming the public. So far, less than a hundred workers, who are GAWU members, have received their severance pay. Those payments were settled belatedly last September rather than, as was expected, in late April 2016.As it regards the demand by the cane cutters and cane transport operators for their severance, GAWU is urging the Ministry and its advisers to acquaint themselves with the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act (TESPA). There, it said they will quickly see that the workers’ entitlement for severance is upheld.“Moreover, we must reiterate that GuySuCo, in our Union’s presence, last December communicated to a number of workers that their jobs were redundant and they were entitled to severance, if they chose not to go to Uitvlugt. Here, we must point out that those workers who were already severed declined GuySuCo’s offer of going to Uitvlugt and demanded their severance which the company rightly obliged. We ask then why is a different ‘yardstick’ being applied to the current contingent of workers?” the Union questioned.GAWU said the Ministry and GuySuCo have also assured of the availability of company transportation for the workers. It said this is not a new idea since for decades now, sugar workers have been transported to work. Such a benefit, like others, came into being due to the struggles by workers in the past.The Union said its workers are labelled as disingenuous; however, that label best fits GuySuCo and, seemingly, the Agriculture Ministry.“There is no merger of Wales and Uitvlugt factory operations as asserted in the statement. The fact is that cane cultivation and sugar processing have ended at Wales and the estate is now sadly closed. No amount of semantics can wish away this depressing fact,” GAWU said.The Union said workers were concerned about their job security, and expressly called for Wales not to be closed in order to save their main source of livelihood.“They, at no time, promoted the transfer of their jobs some 22 miles away to Uitvlugt. Their call unfortunately fell on deaf ears and did not find favour with the Administration. Now, GuySuCo is seeking to rub salt in the deep wounds it inflicted by trampling on their right to severance pay and seeking to cover its insensitivity by resorting to hackneyed and old claim of ‘politically instigated”.“The Ministry’s statement also exclaims that there is no option than for the workers to accept employment at Uitvlugt”. GAWU said it was clear that the Ministry and those in charge are at “sea” or they have been receiving bad advice from the Sugar Corporation.“We urge that those in authority to note that Section 21(4) (b) of TESPA requires an employer to provide workers with their severance payments if the employer is unable to provide a similar job “at the same place of employment or within a radius of ten (10) miles therefrom under no less favourable conditions than those such employee enjoyed immediately prior to the termination”. The Sugar Corporation, by its actions, and the Ministry, by its insistence, are promoting positions that are contrary to law, apart from being unsympathetic to the workers’ welfare.GAWU, at this time, stands solidly with the workers and is supportive of their just demand”.