The government’s White Paper on sugar which entails the closing of the Rose Hall Estate factory saw hundreds of workers turning out again in protest yesterday.
Workers downed tools and marched through the Canje area in protest at the plan which was presented to parliament on Monday. The workers marched from the Rose Hall Estate to the Canje turn with placards in their hands shouting, “Estate must stay open”, along with other slogans, calling on President David Granger to review the planned closure.
Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union, General Secretary, Seepaul Narine told Stabroek News that the protest shows the government clearly how the workers feel about the planned closure.
“The workers marched through the entire Canje and back to the estate, they are calling on the government and GuySuCo to review this decision because it is a decision that will affect everyone … employed and who are not employed because Rose Hall Estate is the source of sustenance for many, many villages in and around Canje”.
Narine said that approximately 2,400 workers will be affected by the closure in addition to the fallout on the community as a whole. Narine questioned what will happen to the workers, their families and other citizens of the region who depend on the estate.
Region Six Chairman, David Armogan said he will continue to stand in solidarity with the workers of the estate and protest against the plan of closure. “If the estate is to be closed we are talking about thousands of people out of employment, which means that their children and families will suffer, they may not be able to pay for their children to go to school”, he lamented.
“Worker recognized that the government is serious in closing the estate and the thing is they are fooling the people by telling them alternative employment will be provided at Albion Estate and Blairmont. But if you are reducing the cultivation to just about 2000 acres from 9000 acres, you are knocking out about 7000 acres, so what will happen to those workers who were involved in the cultivation of the other 7000 acres? So definitely the workforce will be reduced and a lot of people will be out of employment”, he charged.
While the workers were marching along the Canje Road, they saw APNU+AFC Member of Parliament for Region Six, Charandass Persaud, who was on his way to work. The protesters flocked Persaud’s vehicle, as they called on him for answers. One worker asked, “Wah yall doing to abie poor people”. Another worker pleaded, “Na close am budday, tell them na close am, abie go punish”.
Persaud rolled down his vehicle’s window but did not exit, while telling the protestors, “You’re sending a message, let’s see where it goes”. He noted, that while he was not the immediate “decision maker”, he was “willing to see what I can do to help”.
Meanwhile, relatives of the workers, business owners, hire car drivers and vendors joined the protest in the latter part. One vendor at the Rose Hal,l Canje market, Margaret Persaud, stated that her husband is disabled and she works to provide for her family, which includes her three children. She noted, “I depending on these workers to make a dollar for me children them”. She then said that business has slowed down under the current administration.
A factory worker, Glenn McLeod, stressed that the country was built on sugar. “No matter what they do sugar got this country how it deh here. A few people want to get rid of sugar, that mean you getting rid of people”. McLeod made an emotional plea to the president to listen to the “cries of the people, their families and their children”.
Tina Seepersaud, the wife of one of the workers, explained that she is currently paying a loan at the bank and believes that if her husband is to be out of a job, she will not be able to meet her financial commitments, which may result in her losing her home and becoming homeless. “Please government see what you will do to help us in Berbice”, she pleaded.
The owner of a furniture business in Canefield, Canje for over thirty years now, Sherry Bipat, said, “The closure of the Rose Hall Estate means the closure of my business too”. She also stated, that she heads an organisation which assists disabled persons in the district. She said, estate workers usually donate to make this possible and if they are to become jobless, her organisation would suffer.
The workers said that the protest action will continue until the government revisits the planned closure.
On Monday in the National Assembly, Agricultural Minister, Noel Holder, presented the Government’s White Paper which will see the closure of the Rose Hall and Enmore factories and the merging of their cultivations with others. The Skeldon estate and factory are to be divested.