May 02, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Dozens of sugar workers from the 15B Gang attached to the Albion Sugar Estate staged a protest at Canje Turn as they claim that proper COVID-19 measures are not in place to facilitate the work they do on a daily basis. The workers complained that several gang members are suspected to have contracted the deadly virus after one worker tested positive. They have expressed worry over the situation and are concerned that they are being exposed to the virus and that there are no proper measures in place to prevent them from contracting it.
GAWU Union Rep, Harvey Tombron, told the media that GuySuCo had agreed to put measures in place for better working conditions during the pandemic. Those measures include sanitising; wearing of masks and the lorries that are used for transporting workers will only be filled at half the usual amount per trip (30-35 workers). He added that, “Only yesterday we had an executive meeting and the position of the union is to ensure that all workers are safe. If those measures are not in place then workers have a right to strike.”
Hardyal Sukhraj, 45, who has been working at the estate for 28 years said, “With this sick wa go around and dem a pack we up like sardine fuh go wuk. One boss dem seh get sick and the foreman dem and the worker dem mingling together. If dem can find a way to send us to work in a more secure way that gone be good. Me whole gang need fa test and if dem send we home and just give we ration fa eat for a couple week so we na got to mingle. Abay na want money, just give we food stuff.”
Rudolph Kentolall said that company’s lorries are transporting over 60 workers per trip and not the stipulated 30-35 persons.
“GuySuCo and the government need to look into this. Dem give we mask when the crop just start and sanitiser but sometime you does get it and sometimes you na get it. The truck got too much people. This gang get couple hundred people,” he said.
Kardernauth Ramnauth, 56, said there are many issues and they believe management “is unconcerned.”
Ramnauth added, “There are some people that working in the gang that we suspect have the COVID-19. The previous Superintendant, we suspect that he had it but now you have the foreman dem that we dealing with on a daily basis…..the government did give us COVID relief and so but to test everyone in this gang will take a week, but if the management could give we COVID relief for that week while we go and do the test then we will be good with that. I am very worried, I could take it home.”
Rabindranauth Danpat, another worker said that nothing is in place for workers and “…is because we is poor people and we count as nothing. Morning dem carry we with the truck, some truck full and some reasonable. When we coming back dem got we load up and nobody don’t check us or screen we hand or nothing. We na even get water to wash hand. They mis-managing” he said.
He called on the President to intervene and opined that the government seems more focused on “looking after the city and he na send nobody to look into this. This is the only department in this country nobody na take care of. Leh he look into this. Dem get cane cutters like a pack of wild cow. Management can see if we can get a checkup every week.”
Meanwhile, Albion Estate Manager, Threbhowan Shivprasad, when contacted disclosed that there are adequate measures in place to ensure that workers are safe but noted that workers should also be responsible as they go about their daily lives. He said that there are union representatives who they engage with weekly and concerns such as the overcrowding of the lorries are not raised. He confirmed that one person tested positive for the virus and that individual has since been placed in isolation and several others have who may have had interactions with him have also been tested and quarantined. Shivprasad said, “We can’t test everyone from the gang” but workers who had contact with the positive case and the suspected case were asked to come forward to be tested.
He also stated that as it relates to sanitisation and the wearing of masks, workers were asked to provide their own masks, but the estate has been providing the sanitisers since the estate produces ethanol. He said that the trucks and workers are sanitised every day.
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