GAWU severance civil suit…accuse Union of not representing their best interest …call for new leadership The decision by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) to mount a legal challenge against the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (GuySuCo) 50 per cent severance payment to several categories of sugar workers is not sitting well with several former employees, who feel their union is improperly representing their causes. As such, the disgruntled workers are of the view that new leadership is needed as they feel they are being neglected.Rampersaud PrashadGuyana Times met with several former workers who were attached to the East Demerara (Enmore) Estate on Friday. They related that the Union acted “too rash” when it opted to pursue court action. They believe GAWU should have waited at least six months to see if Government would pay the balance. According to the workers, GAWU is now acting when the Union should have taken a firm position from the inception of talks about closing the sugar estates.Ravi PersaudFormer Enmore Field Secretary, Rampersaud Prashad, told this publication that since workers got severance, GAWU has held only one meeting with them. He accused the Union of not looking into their interests.“This decision which was made here was a one-man decision by Komal Chand. It’s time for him to go and rest, he’s too old; give Seepaul Narine a chance. We worried about this action in court. GAWU doesn’t have resources like before – where will they find the money to pay lawyers,” Prashad expressed on Friday.“This matter might get delayed and if you send this to the High Court, then you gone Appeal Court and no decision not come out, you have to go to the Caribbean Court (of Justice) so it will be long and drawn out,” the former worker and past Union representative noted.GAWU President Komal ChandLegal documents of GAWU’s civil suit released on Wednesday showed 4283 workers were attached to the Skeldon, Rose Hall and the East Demerara Sugar Estates; these workers are calling for their full severance payments. Earlier this year, sugar workers whose severance packages were $500,000 or less were paid in full under a supplementary budgetary provision of $1.931 billion in an effort to provide severance packages to the fired workers. However, workers earning more than that specified amount were paid half of their severance and do date, Government still owes workers the money which is at the centre of the civil suit.In response, former employees said on Friday that they fear their money would be stalled for several months or even years once the court calls up the case for hearing. Lusignan, East Coast Demerara resident and former estate employee, “Muslin” said he was displeased with receiving half-severance pay. He said his last few years of service saw fewer payments than previous times and observed that his calculation was unfair. The man, who assists in looking after his grandchildren, says GAWU was wrong to pursue the court action.“GAWU should [have] never carry Government to court but Government said in six months, abbe would get the next set of money. No sugar worker didn’t know anything. Komal [Chand] supposed to be fired for this what he do; he never say he would take the matter to court; that’s wrong what he do,” the 53-year-old grandfather of three observed.He expressed much distress over not getting work due to his age. He added that he feels neglected by both Government and his union.Another former worker, Ravi Singh, who received all of his termination benefits added that with Government’s move to capitalise on the oil and gas sector, ex-sugar workers should be given some priority to work in the new industry as they were displaced.Noting he is facing challenges sending his four children to school, he too chimed in saying the Union should have waited before taking the matter to court, adding that the action was a bad decision. When questioned about union leadership, he echoed the call for a new GAWU leader.“I think it’s time for him to step down and given somebody else a chance but frankly speaking, I think [the court case] is politics. Everything has a process and you should wait your turn. Look what happened at Wales, that’s a perfect example because when you taking somebody to court, you have to wait until its finished and God knows when that will finish,” Singh pointed out.Former employee “Prescott” also told this publication that he is not doing as well as he had anticipated. Another worker said GAWU is now waking up from its slumber.“They now waking up. GAWU shoulda take a strong stance from the beginning. This what they now doing gon put the severance in limbo,” the former sugar worker stated.In the legal documents, it was outlined that the dismissed workers were to receive their redundancy allowance/severance payment no later than December 29, 2017, which was in keeping with the letter of Section 21 of the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act (TESPA). The legal team is led by Attorney Anil Nandlall.The attorneys are seeking an order from the court to direct the Respondents – GuySuCo and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) – their officers, servants and agents, to “pay forthwith to the said four thousand, two hundred and eighty employees of GuySuCo and members of the Applicant, all severance or redundancy payments or allowances due, owing and payable under the provisions of TESPA. They are also seeking costs. The matter comes up for hearing on July 20, at 13:45h, before Justice Fidella Corbin-Lincoln at the High Court. Apart from Nandlall, Manoj Narayan, Sasha S Mahadeo-Narayan, Rajendra Jaigobin and Anuradha Deodasingh are all representing the applicants in this case.The issue of 50 per cent severance came in a presidential address to the National Assembly read by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo at the January 10, 2018, sitting of the National Assembly. The coalition Government closed all, but the Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt estates which were not in keeping with a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the industry that recommended no closures. However, Government has long held out that the “reorganising” of the sugar industry was necessary since billions of taxpayers’ dollars have been expended to aid the ailing sector.