Almost 50 ex-Skeldon sugar workers protested outside of the estate’s Administrative Office yesterday for GuySuCo and the government to make outstanding severance payments without any further delay.
Some of these workers got part of their severance in January and were promised that the remainder would be paid in the second half of the year. That has not happened as yet.
The workers’ main concerns yesterday, which marked 273 days since the Skeldon Estate was closed, were about putting food on their tables, paying their bills and loans and ensuring their children stay in school.
Some workers said they were unable to continue the construction of their houses which they started while being employed at the estate, while others added that they were unable to provide three meals per day for their families.
Melissa Sinclair, 25, of Number 77 Housing Scheme, a mother of an eight, five, three and one-year-old who was employed in the fertilizing gang at the estate, stated, “Since the estate close down we left half way with we house.”
She noted, “This house shaking and it leaning and the flooring going bad, the wall going, this house want to repair”.
According to the woman, she never thought that one day she would have to seek support from other persons, as she and her husband have both been willing and able to work. However, at this moment, residents of the area are assisting with clothing and food items because although her husband, Eon Collymore, 35, is on the hunt for any other job available, he has not been able to find one.
The man said that he has only been able to occasionally secure a one-day job although he takes his bicycle and rides around Corriverton in search of employment.
“We have to get money to do stuff and money is not (here) right now. We want to work for we money but where?” Sinclair questioned.
Additionally, Sinclair noted that their situation has also taken a toll on her mentally and is affecting her marriage. “Me and he does fight because things nah go right, if me children fall sick, you carry them hospital, you gah buy some drugs, them nah get, we nah get money, all thing we a study. We gah beg and borrow and then we nah get to pay back, we gah send them to school, we nah get money”, she said.
She added, “We plan to keep them in school. Last night me eat salt and rice but me children them got to go to school.”
The woman also said her children have been absent from school in the past because of the circumstance beyond her control. She said, “When school start, them nah go for two week because me nah had uniform for them to go school and then them lil voucher help me but me had to find footwear and books.”
Avinash Singh, 31, who worked at the estate for over 12 years explained that he has the responsibility to take care of his two children, his older brother’s two children and his father, 66, who is barely able to walk after a stroke. One of the man’s older brothers, who resides with him, was also let go from the estate.
The three brothers have all tried to head out to sea to fish but after the pirate attack off of Suriname earlier this year, two of the brothers returned home in fright. “We go one time a sea. It tough plus [with] the pirating and the murdering and the killing, we nah go out back; you got to try, can’t sit down, but that hard,” he said. He noted, that they have been on the hunt for other employment but have been unable to secure anything permanent.
According to Singh, he is responsible for cooking and ensuring that the four children attend school regularly. However, with no job on the horizon, he is finding that very difficult at the moment.
Additionally, the man said his mother passed away recently which left all of the responsibility on him. An emotional Singh noted that he was unable to finance the funeral arrangements for his mother and he thanked relatives and friends who stepped in to assist.
He explained that presently his father’s pension is what is financing the groceries for the house. “You believe at this time me father got to support we with he pension because we nah have a job right now?” he asked.
He said his fear is waking up one day and not being able to provide the children and his father with a meal.
“Me never skip a meal for them yet but sometimes me na feel fa eat, with all thing, looking after all them … you mind don’t put you fa eat, you rather them kids belly full because me can bear, them can’t bear”, he said.
According to Singh, his former partner returned to her home in Georgetown, where she has since remarried. He said she keeps in contact with the children.
Meanwhile, another former worker, Bindmattie Hardatt Mala, 45, a single mother of two, told Stabroek News yesterday that her son currently works to take care of her and her daughter who is now in secondary school. However, the woman is dreading the time when her son will start his own family and have the responsibility of taking care of them.
She said presently she is cooking one meal per day at her home, since her son’s pay is barely able to cover rent and other bills.
“One time a day abie a eat”, she said. “You na get fa eat, you na get fa cook, when me alone been a work, me been a send me pickney them a school and cook and do everything,” she said.
The woman is on the hunt for another job as well. “Any kind a job me a look for right now, anything,” she stressed.
Over ten years
Stephanie Adams, who was employed at the estate for over ten years, said she too needs a job. She said she used half of her severance payment to secure a small house on her land in order to provide shelter over the heads of her two sons.
“We does take a blind to part off the house, we na get money to do nothing, we na get water and light”, she said.
Colin Crow, another ex-worker, said he needs the second part of his severance payment immediately, since he is unable to pay his rent and water bill. “I deh at home eight months now without no work. Sometime, my friend come and call me I get a lil outside work for $2500 a week,” he said.
The father of two also said he also has the responsibility of sending his children to school. “I use the first half severance to do that and pay me rent,” he said.
Royston Garnett, 44, said he owes the bank and needs his severance before his house is repossessed. “Today is me due date. Me na get money to pay, I’m not working,” he admitted.
The man explained that he has two children in high school but in the past he had adopted two children who were in need. However, after he lost his job, he had no choice but to send the children back to their biological family, since he too would now be unable to take care of them.
“I’m a single father. I’m making sure them going to school. The first half I pay some loan and take care of me children, I need the next part now to help me,” he said. “Plus when we done collect all the severance and still na get no job, what we gonna do?”