Nothing depresses a person more than the humiliation of not being able to provide for his or her family. Ten years ago, a sugar worker was reduced to tears on Boxing Day because he could not buy toys for his children.
It is terrible thing for a man who is capable of work, to not be able to find work, especially at Christmas time. This is the season when a few extra bucks are needed to ensure that your family can have a nice Christmas.
Everyone looks forward to a nice Christmas. This often just involves people having a few dollars to prepare a sumptuous Christmas luncheon – a traditional Christmas pastime.
It is going to be a bleak Christmas for thousands of workers. A Chinese construction firm has been forced to terminate the services of its workers because of what it claims are problems with payments from its main client
In the gold mining sector, Troy Resources is reportedly terminating the services of more than 300 workers. The layoff is said to have resulted from financial difficulties being experienced by the company.
The downsizing of the company will have implications for gold production. This is not a good sign, since other companies in the mining sector have been experiencing shortfalls in production. It may be a bad year for gold.
In the meantime, thousands of sugar workers have been told that they need to speak to Guysuco about a possible increase in salaries. Guysuco is running low on funds and by referring them to their employers, the government is clearly shunning the sugar workers. The government is not interested in helping them, yet it will go and seek their votes in March next year.
For all of these workers, there will be no Santa Claus this year. For the sugar workers at Skeldon, Wales, Enmore and Canje, this will be a Christmas which they will not want to recall.
And to think that if the government really wanted to help them, it could have done so. This is unkindest cut of all.
Nine years ago, the country faced a similar situation as what Troy Resources is facing at the moment. Barama, a forestry company, was forced to lay off some 274 workers after a boiler exploded.
The government at the time was concerned about the impact of the closure on workers. The then President Bharrat Jagdeo put together a special package for those sent home, including paying them $25,000 each per month, plus a training grant to allow them to retrain.
These little things mean a lot to workers. It helped many of them to rally over a difficult period. The same can now be done for the sugar workers who were terminated and who were punished further by having to wait on the terminal benefits.
Troy Resources is a private company as was Barama. If Jagdeo could have helped these workers there is no reason why the present government should not be helping those who will be on the breadline this Christmas because of closures of companies.
There is the ‘fiscal space’ to do something for those workers who will not be earning an income this Christmas. As was explained earlier in this column, first oil is expected a full three months ahead of schedule. This means that the government will earn about G$60B which it did not cater for.
The government can advance the monies now from future oil revenues. There is enough to pay these sugar workers a tidy sum, since they have been carrying a reduced industry for the entirety of this year.
Last year, teachers had reached an agreement for wage increases dating from 2016 to 2018. It is not clear whether there were any negotiations for increases for this year or whether teachers will enjoy the same 9% as public servants.
In February of this year, teachers were calling for a 25% increase in salaries. Teachers deserve a good deal this year; they have fallen far behind their colleagues in the Caribbean. There is the fiscal space to do so.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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