After several protests, rallies and calls to rescind the decision to have the Rose Hall Estate closed, the management of Guysuco and the government went ahead with a plan to shut the estates down.
Just over a day ago 400 sugar workers received redundancy letters detailing their last day of employment at the company. The letter states that the last day of employment will be December 29, 2017.
The letter also states that a severance pay will be provided. Four hundred more letters of redundancy are expected to be circulated by next month.
With the news of the workers being laid off many of their colleagues have expressed their displeasure in the decision made. Kaieteur News heard their cries for a “better life” which they said seemed like “a tunnel with no end”.
A 34-year-old chauffeur and a father of three told this publication that he has been employed with Guysuco as a driver for ten years but had received word that he will be receiving his letter in the next batch.
Fighting back tears as he sat in the company vehicle, he said that finding another job in the wake of such announcements has been a rough task.
“I seek about 11 place of employment already since dem call meeting on closure of the estate and me ain’t get employment nowhere yet. My view is that my children gon got to come out of school,” he stressed. While not the best decision, he elaborated that he has no choice. “I don’t know how I will do it”.
A future that seems not so bright and a Christmas that looks somewhat grim and dull, these workers are pondering their next move.
Deborah Simon, 53, while not one of the workers that would have received letters; conveyed great concern for her fellow workers. “I feel for my brothers and sisters because people owe the bank; people have children to send to school and its very devastating.
“It hurts. When you check up the severance pay is nah no big sort of money but you got to tek it. Wha you gon do then? Find a work after?”
A Cane Harvester, eager to give his input in an assessment of the entire situation, said, “It is not a nice thing to close down, but they gotta know why they make such a drastic move. It got a lot of big men that gon accept it but the young ones dem might not want to accept because dem get kids and stuff that going to school.”
The workers stated that most of the younger staff are the ones that received their letters while the older folks that have been employed at Guysuco for years, over the age of fifty still remain. The elder workers opined that if they would have given them the severance pay they would have accepted, but it is the younger generation that were taken on they are concerned for.
Another worker employed at the Rose Hall Estate said that it will be very difficult for everyone. “I am speaking for the young men who have children, who just started life, who got loan to pay. It will be very hard. We don’t have job opportunities. Things are already stagnated. They got children that doing well in school but how you gonna finance them?”
Impact on businesses, hire car drivers and vendors.
As the closure and laying off moves fast apace, not only the sugar workers are feeling the brunt. Some of the shop owners within the Canje area reckoned that with talks of closure over the past months their businesses have been taking a beating. A few are now considering closing their respective shops and supermarkets.
One business woman revealed that her sales have since dropped. “I gon close down, I plan to go and write off the business because most of my customers are sugar workers. I does open 6:15 in the morning normally.
“The estate truck does come and them men does buy phone cards, cigarettes, drink, cake , bread and plenty things. Then they does come back in the afternoon. Since some people move from the estate we sales drop.”
Nazmoon, a vendor that sells her produce opposite the Rose Hall Estate, said, “We might gotta stop sell because nobody nah gon come to buy. I selling here for 36 years. I feel sorry for the workers. Dem workers stressed out . This is my livelihood because I am a single parent.”
Regional Chairman Mr. David Armogan expressed concern for the workers who will be out of a job with families to maintain.
He said, “It seems as though the government is moving ahead with what they would do to shut down the Rose Hall Estate, and Skeldon as well. We were hoping that good sense would have prevailed and the government would have changed that decision. Unfortunately they seem bent on doing it”.
He highlighted that at the recent New Amsterdam Town Day launching the Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, had told the gathering that Rose Hall Estate will not be closed immediately but will most likely be shifted to some time next year.
“The truth is 400 workers were given their letters two days ago, terminating their services and in that letter they would be given severance but it did not say when.”
He said that the people are extremely worried that it will turn out like the Wales Estate where workers are still to receive their severance as promised.
According to him, it is a terrible situation developing in the sugar industry and the region. Armogan said that they are now targeting the union representatives.
“Every union representative was given a letter so they seem to be in a path of destroying the union”.
The Chairman added that he is unaware of the position as it relates to the factory despite what the Minister of State said at the town day activities. “The reality does not reflect what he said.”
He opined that with this move it could have serious economic implications. “It’s a question of purchasing power. If you don’t have money, you can’t spend money. This could have a ripple effect on the economy.”
The Chairman said that the government has not outlined a plan to say what they will do with the workers that are displaced. He believes that the rate of migration will also increase to where jobs are available.
Touching on the skills training programme provided by Guysuco, it is his belief that it will all go to waste. “When you are equipping people with these skills where are you going to put them? Nobody is getting employment. So if you are going to train a set of people in skills again where are these people going to work?”
Additionally hundreds of workers at Enmore are also expected to receive termination letters as of December, 2017.
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