Protests greet Nagamootoo in Berbice outreach
- 1,600 Berbice sugar workers to receive severance on Tuesday – PM
Sugar workers whose services were terminated following the closure of the Skeldon and Rose Hall, Canje Estates will now
breathe a sigh of relief after it was announced by the Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo that over 1600 retrenched sugar workers will receive their severance as soon as Tuesday.
This announcement was made during a Ministers’ outreach in Region Six involving Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder and Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Jaipaul Sharma. The meeting was initially hosted in the auditorium of the Skeldon Community Centre.
However, workers complained of the accommodation and shouted from outside the building: “We ain’t hearing nothing, half a’ we deh outside and half inside. What sense that mek?”
They then demanded that the PM come out and address everyone outside. The workers’ requests were heard and the PM along with the other Ministers agreed to speak with everyone outside the auditorium.
Nagamootoo told the gathering that nearly 1000 sugar workers who earned below $500,000 will receive their full payment, while the remainder will receive half. “Later on in the year, you will have the other half”.
It was said by the Prime Minister that the sooner the government saves and collects revenues from persons who are not paying their taxes, then they can advance monies to GuySuCo to pay the other half.
Nagamootoo added that 11,000 sugar workers’ jobs are being protected by the actions the government has taken.
He noted that since the coalition took office, the fate of the sugar workers and the sugar industry has always been important.
“We are not shutting the industry down, GuySuCo will remain in sugar; it will concentrate on the estates that are productive,” the PM assured.
According to Nagamootoo 20% and more of the cane is supplied by the sugar workers who plant the cane on their private plot of lands. The sugar workers must be given lands and they must be able to participate in the growing of sugar and eventually sell to the factory, he said.
“We want sugar workers to be able to have at least one acre of land if you want to plant an alternative crop. If you want to get into cash crops, aquaculture and to bring investors to invest in those areas when you have cash crop,” he told this gathering.
It is his belief that such economic activities can lead to very successful agro-processing with the canning and exportation of refined agro goods. These were options put forth by the workers who are currently jobless. He stated that the children of the workers will be sent to acquire training. This will be done in collaboration with the Ministry of Business and other agencies.
“The government will ensure that the training school is taken over so that there will be a place to send their children to be trained so that they can meet the requirements of the new oil and gas industry,” he said.
Meanwhile, Agricultural Minister, Noel Holder, in his address to the workers stated that severance will be paid on Monday. He stated that the government has ensured that, “over $2B or more than 50% of your severance will be paid commencing next Monday”.
Holder disclosed that it will provide access to financing for revolving micro-loans to the sum of $100M for entrepreneurial endeavours, “these can be accessed to The Small Business Bureau of the Ministry of Business”.
He explained that it is the government’s aim to focus on the transitioning of ex-employees into entrepreneurs, including farmers with the objective to determine the best operational model for transitioning redundant GuySuCo employees at Wales, Rose Hall and Skeldon estates into independent, self-sufficient, sustainable and successful businessmen. This, he noted, will include leasing lands to workers and capacity building.
Holder divulged that GuySuco has embarked on a ‘Sustainable Communities Programme’ that will continue for the next two to three years. The programme includes three components; economic resilience, social resilience and environmental resilience. He divulged that GuySuCo has had a training of trainers programme in marketing, business management and citrus and coconut cultivation.
“They have trained ex-employees in new skills such as carpentry, masonry, plumbing and other small business enterprises and have trained doctors and other health personnel is psychosocial support”.
He assured that the government will continue to engage with stakeholders at all levels, including working with GAWU, NAACIE and workers “with the aim of reforming the industry to a more viable and sustainable one”.
Meetings were held at the Skeldon Community Centre ground and Welfare ground, Canje, Berbice