Wales severance fallout… Union to seek legal adviceBy Shemuel FanfairAs the months roll by, the matter regarding the non-payment of severance packages to hundreds of sugar workers attached to the Wales Sugar Estate remains unresolved, as the case is yet to be heard in the High Court.Guyana Times was recently made aware that some weeks ago, the counsel for the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Ashton Chase, SC, compiled and filed the requisite documents for the case to be called up at the High Court. However, after weeks, there has been no movement to commence proceedings, as the matter was reportedly not assigned to a judge.GAWU President Komal ChandGAWU President Komal Chand met with a number of aggrieved workers on Sunday, many of whom registered complaints, asking how soon the Union could act to advocate for their monies. He told this publication that many workers were depending on the outstanding payments to make investments for their future. He also confirmed that the matter was yet to be assigned to a judge.“It’s bothersome as the people are depending on their money to see how they could work on their future endeavours. I went to Wales and met with a number of people who have to receive their severance pay,” he noted.Chand further informed this publication that the Union would seek legal advice on whether or not the court could be petitioned to garner an early hearing.“We are looking forward for the matter to be addressed without much delay,” the longtime GAWU President stressed.While several workers had their service transferred to Uitvlugt Sugar Estate, the remaining workers were promised severance payments, some since December 2016 and others by February 2017.However, it was at a community-level meeting between Wales residents and several Government Ministers, including Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, that Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan told the gathering that Government had no money to pay the severance to which the workers are entitled. After this comment was made, the workers angrily exited the meeting.At that meeting, one worker had explained that he had gone to work at the Uitvlugt Estate, only to be given menial tasks, or alternately told to clean drains or scrub steps. The worker expressed great emotion over his impoverished state, since the closure of the Wales Estate operations. This newspaper understands that around 30 workers from Wales are currently working at Uitvlugt, with many having less than five years of service. The majority of longer-term workers opted to be paid severance.Government Ministers had reminded the crowd of the billions which had been invested into the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), since the Government had taken office, but sugar workers had previously noted that President David Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had expressed much commitment to sustain the sugar industry.Government, in early 2016, announced the end of sugar operations at Wales Estate, citing cost as the main factor for its closure. It was later disclosed that rice would be planted as part of the Estate’s diversification plans, but at present no rice has been reaped. Many residents in the surrounding communities of the Estate had called for Government subsidies on electricity and other utilities to offset the impact of the entity’s closure.Since then, workers and their family members have staged a number of protests against the closure of estates – outside the Ministry of the Presidency and the Parliament, but the latter was recently curtailed by what the Police related were security concerns of House members.On May 8, the Agriculture Minister presented Government’s white paper on the future of the sugar industry to the National Assembly. Minister Holder announced that two sugar estates would be closed and the annual production of sugar would be reduced, among a number of other measures as part of a new policy in the sugar industry.The nation was told that GuySuCo would have three estates and three sugar factories. These estates are: Blairmont on the West Bank of Berbice, Albion-Rose Hall in East Berbice and the Uitvlugt-Wales Estate in West Demerara. The three estates will be complete with factories and will have cane supplied from all locations, the Minister had noted.He had also claimed that this process would result in improvements to the relationship with some cane cutters, estate staff and about 1710 private cane farmers.