By Jarryl BryanRetired sugar workers from the La Bonne Intention (LBI) Estate on the East Coast of Demerara braved the blazing sun as they took to the streets on Friday against the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).Pensioners and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) are contending that a decision to cease payments at locations in the community, and instead pay pensioners through the bank, is inconsiderate of the retirees, some of whom have limited mobility.Some of the protesters on FridayNoting that approximately 800 pensioners from LBI to Better Hope are likely to be affected by the changes, GAWU General Secretary Seepaul Narine has urged the corporation to rethink its decision.“They (pensioners) are asking GuySuCo to make their payment as normal at the pay office here at LBI centre or some other convenient place,” Narine said. “Over the past couple of weeks, GuySuCo has been saying to them, ‘You must have a bank account to receive your pension’,” he said.“Many of these people are receiving pension as low as $950 per week. It means therefore that the cost to go to the bank is going to eat out their entire pension. And you have many of them who are not in good health because of their age and sickness,” he explained.He also pointed to instances when pensioners were targeted by bandits due to their perceived vulnerabilities. He therefore urged the corporation to take into account this, as well as the sums themselves.Indeed, checks with some of the pensioners confirmed that the sum being collected is, according to some, subpar. As such, the pensioners are of the view that to have to travel every week to the city in order to collect these sums is unreasonable. One worker who spoke to this publication lamented the treatment being meted out to them.“My name is Sydney Paul. I’m from Berbice, transfer to LBI in 1978. I was at LBI 48 years and I need my money. I’m a pensioner, I’m 63. Why I have to go to the bank?” the elderly man questioned.“Who is the Agriculture Minister to change the system. (They) got nuff old man in the party. Some people drawing $980…to take a taxi from here to go is $500. What you leave with? Nothing!”Another protestor related that while she never worked at the estate, her late husband did, and it is therefore unconscionable that she must journey every week to the city for the pension. One of her peers summed up the frustration being felt by the assembly.“Me a get $900 a week…Me live till a back so. Me got to pay taxi to come out here, taxi to come back. What me left with? Me nah able with bank! Me nah got account at bank. Them a do what them feel like fa do,” she said.A prevailing theme was angst against the sudden way in which their matter was handled. Several of the protestors have tenure of service as long as three decades. And with their belief that new generations are unlikely to come on the pension roll, they are contending that they should be left in peace.
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