(CMC) – Agriculture Minister Noel Holder says payments will be made to former sugar workers “as soon as possible” after the National Assembly Wednesday approved GUY$350 million (One Guyana dollar=US$0.004 cents) in supplementary funding.
“The monies going to GUYSUCO (Guyana Sugar Corporation) represents the final payment to be paid in severance to all sugar workers,” Holder told legislators.
Last month, President David Granger, speaking at a public meeting, had indicated that the severance would have been paid in two parts.
“One in the first half of the year and the second part in the second half of the year. You received your first part and you will get your second part in the second half of the year. Sugar workers are going to get their severance and I say so.
“We are not going to deny sugar workers one dollar of their severance pay. We are also going to work with the unions to make sure that the workers who cannot find employment on the estates are given a soft landing, that is, we will try to provide employment opportunities so that nobody has to suffer,” he told the meeting.
In February, GUYSUCO acting chief executive officer, Paul Bhim, said then that 1,400 ex-employees had received their full severance, with the remainder of them awaiting the remaining 50 per cent.
About 3,700 employees were issued with severance letters and the government had approved the partial payment of the severance, but there was an adjustment made, and workers, due GUY$500,000, (One Guyana dollar=US$0.004 cents) or less, was paid in full.
The coalition government has said since coming to office in 2015, it has provided GUY$38 billion to the sugar industry mostly to meet wages and debt repayments.
The government has defended its policies towards the survival of the sugar industry, noting that various estates such as Albion in East Berbice Corentyne, Blairmont in West Berbice and Uitvlugt in West Demerara, were left in operation while those estates which were not profitable were closed down.
Holder also told legislators that the GUY$250 million approved for the National Drainage Irrigation Authority (NDIA) will facilitate drainage and irrigation works.
“This move is in keeping with the government’s policy for NDIA to assume responsibility for the drainage and irrigation duties that were once under the purview of GUYSUCO,” he added.
“NDIA has increased operational and maintenance cost of machinery and equipment due to extensive and unplanned works resulting from the prolonged rainy season,” he said.