February 25, 2018

‘I finding life real hard’

…retrenched estate worker says facing tough times sending 3 children to school

After being retrenched by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) since 2016, former Wales Sugar Estate cane harvester Michael Chootoo has outlined the many challenges that have affected his ability to provide for himself and his family. The worker, who showcased signs of being at his wit’s end over the non-payment of his severance, indicated to Guyana Times International in a recent interview that the education of his three children is being hindered as he “barely” has enough money to send them to school.
“It affecting my family a lot and meh pickney dem could barely get to go school. If I did get my severance, I coulda tek meh money turn over and do a lil business and get a lil profit,” Chotoo decried.

Former sugar worker
Michael Chootoo

The former worker further observed the difficulties of not affording to pay for the many assignments that his children have to complete and he also noted the unfavourable conditions under which he has to send them to school. He noted that the ages of his children are 16, 14 and nine.
“Right now my children’s boots aint got nothing underneath, they just going with the top. One of them crying because she say she will stop go to school because she got to get G$600 to do assignment to carry in today – me can’t afford that, me an got nothing at all. Right now I take some trust from some people and I can’t afford to pay,” the man noted.
He called on the sugar company to pay the Wales workers their termination benefits, claiming that the few hundred workers attached to the former West Bank Demerara entity are being bullied.
“I really need my severance and is bullying with GuySuCo because they come and tell me bout meh severance and I agree to take me severance and not to go to Uitvlugt. They bullying us,” Chootoo stressed.
In a show of much annoyance, the retrenched worker related that he deserves his severance after devoting almost 30 years of service with the sugar company.
“Right now I frustrated with GuySuCo. I waiting on severance since 2016. I work with the estate for 28 years and it hard now from since then to now. Other estates come behind and closed down and done get their severance and I an get nothing yet. The people at Wales angry over their treatment… is months and a year finish and we can’t get nothing,” Chootoo expressed.
As with his colleague Stanley Felix, the dismissed worker observed the strain on family life which was brought on by the closure of the Estate.
“Nuff time my wife make attempt to leff me because is three children that got to go to school and it hard. Every day, they coming home with assignment an I got to find money for them to go to the Internet [café] because I can’t afford to put Wi-Fi in my house and now the lil money when I work a fine job and save, I got to take out and it ah finish,” he pointed out.
“Right now I cleaning people drains and doing other people yard just to upkeep me. It very hard, hard, hard right now,” Chootoo stressed.
The father of three is hopeful that the High Court can call up the severance matter, some 10 months after the case was filed.

Several fired cane harvesters holding up placards during the peaceful picketing exercise held outside the Ministry of the Presidency

On December 31, 2016, the Wales Estate was closed. GuySuco has since snubbed the Wales workers when it announced on Tuesday that they are not entitled to severance payment.
Acting GuySuCo Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Paul Bhim, has declared that these workers were not entitled to those benefits.
Bhim maintains that GuySuCo has honoured all its obligations regarding the payment of severance at the Wales Estate. He told the Department of Public Information (DPI) that cane cutters were offered jobs at the Uitvlugt Estate and they were at risk of self-termination because of their refusal to take up this offer.
However, the workers argued that they were being pressured by GuySuCo when they were aware that the Uitvlugt Estate was located more than 20 miles from Wales. They still contend that this move is contrary to the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act. By refusing to adhere to the “Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act” GuySuCo is treating the Wales cane cutters like indentured servants.
Of the approximate 4800 workers dismissed in the latest firings, only 1600 fired sugar workers who are eligible to receive G$500,000 or less in severance pay have been paid in full, while the others would be paid 50 per cent of the amounts due to them.