Nearly 1500 Apply For Ex-Sugar Worker $16 Mil Payout LK Hewlett
Close to 1500 persons have applied to the Sugar Workers’ Restoration Fund (SWRF) Secretariat to find out if they qualify for any of the $16 million earmarked for back severance payout. The Observer visited the Secretariat this week, which opened May 18, and saw several persons come to ask questions and fill out applications. The office is located in the former CLICO building on South Independent Square Street. According to government media, “representatives of the SRWF Secretariat have been out in the field to accommodate those who cannot travel to Basseterre. These areas included Conaree, Keys and Cayon. On Friday, officials are scheduled to be at the Lodge Community Centre from 2p.m. to 7p.m. and 9a.m. to 3p.m. at the Federal Office in Charlestown”. All who worked in the closed sugar industry or their surviving family members are being asked to apply. Applicants are required to take along ID, Social Security number or the medical cards issued by the SSMC if they still have them, and any documentation regarding payments received from the initial payout. Beneficiaries of deceased workers’ estates have to show proof of death and that they are the ones to receive any payments by bringing death certificates, receipts from payment of funeral expenses or any legal documentation in the case of wills. The application requires information such as when the persons started and finished working at SSMC; if they received severance when they left; if so how many payments and how much was received; if they were the recipient of an ex-gratia special payment and if so how much; if they retired or were retied prior to the closing of the industry; if they were part of the SSMC Pension Scheme; and if they are still receiving pension. The Committee in charge of the administration of the severance will, working in conjunction with the Labour Department and Social Security, work out who are qualified to receive monies and exactly how much. Claimants and representatives are advised that completing and submitting an application form “does not in any way entitle a claimant or his/her beneficiary or beneficiaries to the payment of any benefits”. “Each claim will be subject to established criteria and only claims that satisfy the criteria will result in the payment of benefits,” the forms read. The previous Labour government paid some 1500 persons $28 mil in severance when the industry closed in 2005. Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris said the workers were done an injustice and were owed $16 mil more. The Unity party campaigned on the issue and shortly after being elected in February, secured a grant from the Venezuelan government to pay the monies.