Responding to reports circulating in the media, the Ministry of Agriculture wishes to inform the general public that no employee from the Wales Estate has been asked to sign any agreement which indicates whether they will opt to receive a severance package or be transferred to the Uitvlugt Estate.Meetings were held on February 1 and 2 with the various categories of permanent agriculture employees from the Wales Estate and they were given one week to indicate to management their decisions following discussions with their families, given the decision to cease operations at the factory. The employees were made aware of the various options that are available to them after the decision was made to move away from sugar production at the Wales Estate. Provisions have to be made and systems put in place so that workers can have a timely and easy transition rather than waiting until the closure to decide who is going where and doing what.
These consultation sessions are being held with the aim of recording the different categories of workers and the options they choose so that GuySuCo, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the Department of Labour can be informed of their decisions.
The sugar workers were informed that similar work for some categories is indeed available at the Uitvlugt Estate and GuySuCo is seeking persons to fill those vacancies. However, workers who choose not to fill the existing vacancies in their respective categories at the Uitvlugt Estate are being offered Cane Harvesting positions at the Wales Estate. Some categories of workers would have to remain at the Wales Estate until the end of the 1st or 2nd crops of 2016.
In addition, workers who have attained 55 years of age and have 10 years or more of continuous service have the option to take early retirement. Workers who do not want to accept any of the mentioned options have the additional option of accepting a severance payment.
Follow-up meetings were also conducted on February 8 and 9 with the same categories of permanent agriculture staff for them to communicate their decisions to the officials. But at no time were workers offered a three-day grace period for a decision to be made, as was reported in Inews. The workers were however, informed that staff who opted for the severance payments cannot seek further employment with the corporation.
A record was made of workers who were present at the sessions to ensure that they receive their salary for the day. Based on reports in the media, workers misunderstood the reason for recording their names and thought that it was for severance payment and that they did not have to return to work. It was made clear to all workers attending the meeting on February 9, that they have to continue being present for work until they are advised otherwise.
The Wales Estate has ceased employing temporary staff, to the extent that they are not required for productive work, in an effort to address the needs and concerns of all permanent employees.