Thousands of retrenched sugar workers in Berbice were not pleased with the visit of a Government delegation inclusive of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and Agriculture Minister Noel Holder on Friday.
The team held two meetings; one at the Skeldon Community Centre for those attached to the Skeldon factory, which the government plans to sell, and the other meeting at Rose Hall, where the estate has been closed and most of the workers sent home.
Nagamotoo and the other officials tried to pacify thousands of fired sugar workers by saying Government regrets having to dismiss them from their jobs, while trying to justify the closure of the sugar estates.
Both meetings were still met with irate protesters.
Nagamootoo told the gathering at East Canje that the Government wants to do better for the industry but can only do so by closing those estates.
However, most of what the Prime Minister said was drowned out by protesters; most of whom are the workers and their family members, who were sent home.
Minister Holder in a prepared speech said the sugar industry is not being closed but rather consolidated.
“No Government wants to sever employees, but sometimes it is the only answer especially given the financial and technical realities which confront the industry the Government was forced to make this urgent decision on the way forward for sugar,” Holder said.
The Minister added that Government has set aside more than $2 billion which represents over 50 per cent of the worker’s severance pay. He said the payout will commence on Monday. Those whose severances’ are less than $500,000 will be paid in full, while the other will receive 50 per cent of theirs.
Most of the utterances by the Prime Minister however, were not on the way forward for the industry and plans for the workers but rather an attack on the People’s Progress Party, its leader and the Region Six administration.
The retrenched workers were very critical and were annoyed at many of the statements made by the politician, saying he had been there prior to taking office and promised that the estates would not be closed and that their jobs would be secured under a coalition-led Administration.