Workers attached to the Rose Hall Sugar Factory in East Canje, Berbice have intensified their protest action against the impending closure of the estate.
On Thursday, factory and field workers, accompanied by their family members and bolstered by sections of the business community and taxi drivers, marched from the Rose Hall factory to the entrance of East Canje — a distance of four miles — to signal their frustration at the APNU/AFC Coalition Administration’s decision, as announced on Monday by Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, to close the sugar estate by year end.
Following an earlier announcement made by President David Granger that Rose Hall is one of the estates tabled to be closed, workers had staged several small demonstrations in hope of getting the attention of the Agriculture Ministry before its subject minister presented the promised ‘white paper’ in the National Assembly last Monday.
The realisation of what is likely to happen as a result of Government’s controversial decision has hit home, and the workers have expectedly reacted.
In a release, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) referred to the protesters as being large in numbers.
“The workers are justifiably concerned over their future, which appears bleak if the Government pursues closure as it says. Regular employment is hard to come by, and closure of the estate will aggravate this problem in the area. It is such concerns that are prompting workers to come together and unitedly call on the APNU/AFC Government to ensure that Rose Hall Estate remains operable”, a release from GAWU has said.
The release said Government closed Wales Estate last year, leaving many of that estate’s 1,700 workers now jobless and despairing. At the end of this year, Rose Hall and Enmore/LBI Estates are to be closed, as disclosed in Government’s ‘white paper’ on sugar, presented to the National Assembly on May 8.
“The Berbice protestors were in an angry mood as they visualise hardships that await them, and the real prospects of destitution of them and their families that are expectedly in store if the Estate is allowed to go to the gallows at the end of this year,” GAWU has said.
“The unconscionable anti-working class action by the Government, which failed to conduct a study of the consequences of its rash and haphazard decision, will impact seriously the victims – workers, pensioners, housewives, children, vendors and others”, the GAWU statement continued.
“The Rose Hall workers recognise the need and importance to continue their united struggle, which they hope to sustain with greater solidarity in their courageous efforts to defend their jobs, their rights, their families, and ensure a secure and dignified future”, the GAWU statement concludes.
GAWU official Seepaul Narine, who was a part of Thursday’s protest, said the workers are now upset following Monday’s announcement. He said they are convinced that what is happening is the perpetuation of a wrong decision.
“So this morning [Thursday] you have more than one thousand workers who have come out to register their protest against the administration. We are asking the Government and GuySuCo to review this decision, because it is a decision that will hurt everyone who is employed and also those who are not employed with GuySuCo, because the Rose Hall Estate is the source of sustenance for many villages around,” he explained.
He said the employees will be directly affected and the spin-off effect will affect businesses and the community as a whole. “There is no study as to what the workers will do when the estate is closed. We need them to go back to the drawing board,” he posited.
Narine said the protest will continue, and is likely to intensify.
Meanwhile, Region Six Chairman David Armogan explained that the decision will not only affect those at GuySuCo, but everyone in Region Six.
He said the workers are being fooled by Government into thinking that alternative employment will be provided. “They are telling the people that alternative employment will be provided at Albion and Blairmont; but if you are reducing the cultivation to just about 2000 acres from what it is presently at 9000, you are knocking out about 7000 acres. So what will happen to those workers who were involved in the cultivation of the other 7000 acres?” he asked.
Armogan said it is time Government comes straight in informing the sugar workers about the future, and there also is need for consultation, since it is obvious that there is no plan on the way forward if the estate does close.