Severance payments were made yesterday to laid-off Skeldon Estate sugar workers and many said they were planning to invest a portion of the money in farming so that they can continue to provide for their families.
The workers braved the scorching sun throughout the day as they stood in lines to receive their severance payments at the Skeldon Pay Office.
Of the 4,763 workers made redundant at the end of December last year, 1,851 were from the Skeldon Estate.
Although most of the workers who spoke with Stabroek News indicated their intention to invest in cash crop farming, they also noted that since the Upper Corentyne is a developed agriculture area with many already in the farming business, they are worried that their investment may not pay off in the long run.
However, in the quest to continue to provide for their families, the men explained that they are willing to make the investment.
One former worker, Balram Sukhoo, 53, of Corentyne, explained that he received his entire severance payment, which was just over $400,000. He noted that his intention is to invest half of the money in farming and put the other half in the bank in case of an emergency.
He stated that he already owns a plot of land, which he purchased during his years as a sugar worker. However, he believes that it is now time for him to invest and begin to farm. “Well, now me go start clean up the land and plant lil cassava, pumpkin, ochro and so fa sell,” he said.
The father of two noted that he still provides for his children and therefore it is necessary for him to act quickly to ensure that they are provided with basic necessities.
Another former worker, Albert Hercules, of Corentyne, who received half of his severance payment, which amounts to just over $1.1 million, explained that he now needs to sit with his wife and discuss w
hat their next move will be. “This country money na plenty. Today me can get all this and then it can done how quick,” he said. “I have to discuss with me mistress and then, but something got to do.”
Hercules also signaled his intention of getting into farming. He did not specify whether he would invest his labour into cultivation and hinted that he may hire workers.
Former worker Charles Moore, 58, who r
eceived half of $1.8 million, explained that he needs to discuss with relatives what his next step will be. The Upper Corentyne resident was also considering farming as an alternative job.
Karamchand Peru, who received half of his severance payment, added, “Me a go plant lil farm and so now… Me go invest $200,000 into me land that me get and save me other $200,000.” “We got to do something. Me got to send me pickney to school,” the father of three said.
Meanwhile, Howard Deonarain, 45, of the Corentyne, with his cheque of over $468,000 in his hand said, “…Well it’s
better than not receiving anything.”
He stressed that presently he has some outstanding bills and the money would “balance me up.”
He explained that while the process of searching for another job is extremely tough, he is working relentlessly to secure himself some sort of employment until he decides whether investing in farming is the best thing for him.
France Emanuel said that he would use part of his severance payment to repair his house so that he and his wife can live comfortably.
Jackson Samuels, who received half of his severance payment, stated that he had to go home and sit and think about his next move. He explained that he was waiting to see the amount of money he would receive and then he would decide on his next move. He too said that he was considering investing in growing cash crops.
The workers who plan to get into farming also called on GuySuCo to keep its promise to lease lands to former employees. One young worker said, “Most them old workers buy land, while them did still working, but some of abie young one na get. If abie want plant, abie got to go look land.”
Meanwhile, other former workers, who were also in the line to receive their severance payments, told Stabroek News that they are looking at seeking employment with businesses and banking their money. Others said that they were looking into purchasing vehicles to work for hire. One former worker who was considering purchasing a vehicle noted that he would have preferred to have a job at the estate than to receive severance. “I would a glad fa still get me job because looking for a next job now hard,” the young man said.