Over 400 Rose Hall workers laid off

Over 400 workers from GuySuCo’s Rose Hall Estate received letters of redundancy yesterday and have been notified that they will be without a job in a month.

According to a letter that was received by one of the workers, which was seen by Stabroek News, entitled ‘Junior Staff Redundancy Notification’, the staff will be made officially redundant on December 29, which will be their last working day.

GuySuCo officials could not be reached yesterday. The layoffs come despite a recent statement by Minister of State Joseph Harmon that  the closure of the Rose Hall estate which was slated for the end of this year may not occur until next year.

The letter sent yesterday starts by referencing a meeting that was held on November 22 at the Rose Hall Estate Community Centre between the workers and representatives from their union, the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE), where they were informed of the Company’s decision with regards to their employment at the Estate.

“The Corporation has given consideration to the option of you continuing in a similar job within the organization. However, there is no suitable vacancy to accommodate you,” the letter stated.

It added that as a result, “the Corporation can no longer provide the employees with regular employment at the Estate and therefore, in accordance with Section 12, subsection (2) (a), (b) and (c) of the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act 1997, the corporation wishes to inform you that your job is being made redundant.”

Rose Hall sugar workers protesting in May this year.

The letter continued by stating that it is serving one month’s notice of the worker being redundant, and as result, this will expire on December 29, which will be the last day of work for the employee with the sugar company.

It added that the employee’s severance payment was calculated and guided by Clause 9 of the 2013/2014 Collective Labour Agreement that currently exists between GuySuCo and NAACIE.

A source from the company also related to Stabroek News that while over 400 persons received their letters yesterday, there are still more to be collected.

In addition to those numbers, more than 250 workers are expected to be made redundant by December 9 at the Enmore Estate as the sugar company continues its scaling down. Thousands more workers are expected to be made redundant within the coming months.   Hundreds have already been laid off from the Wales Estate.

For several months, Rose Hall sugar workers have held sporadic protests against the planned closing of the estate. Residents of the community have also participated in these protests and have raised concerns about the impact of layoffs on the community. The government has been criticised for not having alternatives for the sugar workers who are being laid off. The announcement of the layoffs comes just days after the presentation of the 2018 budget.

In October, GuySuCo said it was retrenching 2,500 more workers by the end of the year. GuySuCo had announced at a press conference that factory operations would end at the East Demerara Estate, Rose Hall and Skeldon and that cane operations would be amalgamated.

At the press conference, Public Relations Officer Audreyanna Thomas reiterated  that moving forward, GuySuCo would be focusing on the development of three estates – Albion, Uitvlugt and Blairmont.

With respect to the Skeldon, Rose Hall, Wales and East Demerara Estates, Thomas had noted that the Special Purpose Unit established on privatization/divestment was inviting expressions of interest. Seventy expressions of interest have so far been received.

While the sugar company had some 17,000 workers in October, Thomas related that they will only need 10,000 to work with the three estates which will remain, however, additional workers would be needed for support as they have established an Alternative Livelihoods Programme.

The programme will see services that are currently being provided on contract, shift to workers who would’ve been made redundant, hence giving them opportunities to continue working alongside the estates.

Thomas also pointed out that they are looking to start a massive skills training programme where they will be training longstanding employees in different areas. “So what we are attempting to do is reskill employees, those who would remain redundant so they can be involved in other areas,” Thomas noted, while adding they are currently working with consultants to work out the logistics of the programme.

A third aspect of the programme is developing sustainable communities to ensure that the “sugar dependent” communities can build resilience and survive while the estates are slowly phased out.

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