Rose Hall Estate workers walk out of GuySuCo meeting

The restive workers

Several hundred Rose Hall Estate sugar workers yesterday walked out of two separate meetings with GuySuCo officials, after the corporation’s management team was unable to answer their questions on imminent retrenching and transfers.

Several meetings were expected to be held throughout the day yesterday with officials from GuySuCo and workers from the Rose Hall Estate who are expected to be transferred to the Albion Estate or Blairmont Estate. However, a source told Stabroek News that the workers after asking several questions and not receiving the necessary information from the management team opted to walk out of the meetings, which were held at the Rose Hall, Canje Community Centre.

“The people left disgruntled, they did not allow the meeting to conclude and they just walk out of the meetings”, the source said.

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union’s, Regional Supervisor for Berbice, Harvey Tambron in an invited comment said that between 275-300 workers attended the first meeting yesterday morning, while over 100 workers attended the second meeting in the afternoon. He noted that the workers included those from the cultivation gang, cane harvesters, operators, field foremen and planting gang among others.

According to Tambron, the meeting was held to inform the workers that those present will be transferred to either Albion Estate or the Blairmont Estate.  Tambron said, “The workers asked a lot of questions as … regards to transportation, similarities of job opportunities, earnings, etc from Rose Hall Estate compared to Albion and Blairmont Estate”.

He relayed, “Management seems, well not seems, management is not prepared to answer those questions because they do not have the answers”.  He added, “A lot of information is missing, a lot of questions need to be answered”. Tambron further claimed, that GuySuCo’s management is “ not prepared to handle such a situation to this magnitude”.

According to the regional supervisor, one of the issues with workers is the fact that some who are presently attached as field foremen at the Rose Hall Estate are expected to be transferred to other estates as “planters”. “If you working here as a foreman when you being transferred you supposed to be transferred as a foreman”, he explained.

Tambron, who represented GAWU at yesterday’s meetings, stated that while officials are claiming that this is a transition period for transferring, retaining and offering severance packages to workers, nothing has yet been concretised.

He stressed, “Presently management cannot answer basic questions from the workers”. “They don’t even know the system at Rose Hall, for example a gentleman working at filter press gang at Rose Hall, he is the number 2 person, when they go Blairmont you already have a number 2 man there, so which number will this person fall? It’s like the workers are starting afresh, then they are saying they are going with their full service, if you are going with your full service you can’t be starting afresh”.

Meanwhile, workers explained to this newspaper that the management was questioned about what will be the outcome if workers are not able to perform the duties in the different fields they are placed in at the estates which they will be transferred to, or if workers are not comfortable with the transfer, and wish to refuse the letters.  This, the workers said, the management called ‘Voluntary termination of service’.

Questions were also raised about the process which was used to select workers for termination, transfer and retention. Management in responding, hinted that the selection process was based on the performance of the workers, however, workers believe otherwise.

It was also relayed to Stabroek News, that workers raised the issue relating to the schedule of the Berbice River Bridge. One worker after the meeting told this newspaper that they asked what would happen when the bridge is closed. Management reportedly said, ‘Workers would have to adjust themselves’.

Adding to this Tambron said, “This means what, that if you wake 5 o clock today, tomorrow you must be able to wake up 3 in the morning”.

Stabroek News was told that added to the 840 workers who are expected to receive their severance package at an unidentified date, since their employment with the sugar corporation will expire come December 29, some 500 workers are expected to be transferred to the Albion Estate, while some 300 persons will be transferred to the Blairmont Estate. A handful of workers will be retained at the Rose Hall Estate to offer essential services which include managing the pump stations and security services.

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