GuySuCo, Health Ministry launch ‘social resilience’ programme for laid-off workers

-in wake of two suicides

The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is working with the Ministry of Public Health to implement their Social Resilience component of the Sustainable Communities Pro-gramme to provide support to the thousands of sugar workers who have been made redundant.

According to a joint press statement yesterday from the sugar company and the Ministry, the programme targets sugar-dependent communities in the vicinity of the Skeldon, Rose Hall, Enmore and Wales Estates.

“GuySuCo and the Mental Health and Men’s Health Units of the Ministry of Public Health are jointly pursuing a social resilience programme to establish a network of individuals, groups and organisations within the targeted communities with a view to build their capacity and capability to provide psychosocial support to ex-employees of the Corporation, as well as their families and residents in the targeted communities,” the statement said.

It comes after around 4,000 workers were laid off as of December 31 without any severance pay or support services. The government has said that the severance payments will be made this month but it has provided no details.

Two sugar workers have since committed suicide over what their families and union say was despondency over the loss of their jobs and the non-payment of severance.

On Tuesday, GAWU said that at Wales, Ramnarase Bissesar ingested what is said to be gramoxone on December 28, 2017. The union said that he was among the 350-odd cane cutters who have been denied illegally his severance pay by GuySuCo. GAWU said that it was reliably informed that on the ill-fated day Bissesar returned home at Inner Stanleytown, West Bank Deme-rara around 2 pm after he visited some friends and told his wife that he wasn’t sure how he was going to live since he didn’t get his severance payment and he could not secure even part-time work. Soon after, the union said that he went to the upper flat of the house where he ingested the poisonous substance. His wife found him and rushed him to the West Demerara Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

At Rose Hall, Joseph Mohabir hung himself in his bedroom on Old Year’s day. He was required to return his motorcycle on December 30, 2017 to Rose Hall Estate and he complied, the union said. Before he ended his life, he visited the storeroom where the cycle was kept twice in the afternoon. GAWU said that 39-year-old Mohabir began his working life in the sugar industry at a young age and moved up the ranks to Field Superintendent, the post he held at the time of his sudden retrenchment. On occasions he acted as Field Manager. He also had high expectations to receive his severance pay on December 29, 2017.

The joint statement yesterday said that the programme also aims to build a network of medical personnel, religious and other community leaders, as well as representatives from the sugar company to support the ex-employees in the areas in coping and adapting to closure of the estates.

The programme will see the mobilisation of relevant stakeholders to provide counselling and other support, the training of community and religious leaders to provide psychosocial support, the establishment of centres in the communities to facilitate the counselling and other psychosocial support and the development of a monitoring and evaluation system to ensure that the programme is effective.

“One of the key outcomes of the Social Resilience Programme will be the development of a blueprint on the process as a ‘National Social Resilience Approach’ for transitioning communities nationwide,” the statement added.

The inaugural training will be held for 20 medical personnel who will be taken from GuySuCo and the Ministry and will be equipped with knowledge of addressing key issues such as depression, suicide and coping skills.

The training will commence from Tuesday, January 9th, to Thursday, January 11th from 9am to 4pm at the GuySuCo Staff Club at its Head Office in La Bonne Intention (LBI), East Coast Demerara.

For the following week from Monday, 15th January to Thurs-day 18th, January, the sugar company and the Ministry will be conducting mobilization/awareness sessions for religious leaders from the four communities and their surrounding environs.

On Monday, it will be held at the Rose Hall Community Centre, on Tuesday at the Skeldon Community Centre, on Wednesday at the Enmore Com-munity Centre and on Thursday at the Wales Community Centre. And each session will be held from 4pm to 6pm on each day.

The Social Resilience Pro-gramme will be implemented throughout the entire year, from January to December as the sugar company “hopes to build partnerships with other organisations to ensure that the ex-employees, their families and these sugar-dependent communities received the best support in this area.”

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