In the 1970s Bookers paid women field workers the same as males

Dear Editor,

I sincerely hope that I will be forgiven for taking another opportunity to provide some more pre-history to Joycelyn Williams’ article on `Gender Governance and the Nation’s business’ in Stabroek Business, May 9, 2014.

Reference to the sugar industry as far back as in 1970s will reveal the employers’ (Bookers Sugar Estates and Demerara Company) taking the initiative to pay women field workers equal pay for work equal to that performed by their male counterparts. It was a voluntary act which required no negotiation with the union, and which was regarded as a major industrial and social milestone at the time.

Then there was the historic appointment of the redoubtable Ivy Ramjeet of Rose Hall Estate, who, in spite of the lack of formal education, performed so exemplarily as one of the few Field-Forewomen of the day, graduated to the position of Field Supervisor and eventually to that of being the first female Field Superintendent in sugar’s history- the first level of the estate’s management structure.

There was also Roma Maraj, who rose from the ranks of Estate Welfare Officers to become Deputy to the famous West Indian cricketer, Clyde Walcott, who for nearly two decades coordinated the sports and social welfare programmes throughout the estate communities.

Meanwhile at the Head Office of Bookers Sugar Estates Thelma Rodney- Edwards was installed in the management position of corporative secretary. Hers was but precedent to several other appointments which broke the proverbial glass ceiling. Of course with Guyana being the focus of Caricom’s headquarters, several of the early leadership positions were filled by Guyanese women professionals over the years.

Perhaps an effective follow-up to Ms. William’s proposition would be the revival of a Professional Women’s Association which existed for a while in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Yours faithfully,

E.B. John




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