Ever since the closure of the Wales Sugar Estate in December of 2016, some 1700 workers have been directly affected, and thousands of persons in the Wales and surrounding communities have been indirectly affected. Almost 10 months after the shutdown of the Estate, many workers claim that they are having difficulty gaining consistent employment even as they continue to cope without receiving their termination benefits.
These issues were reiterated on Tuesday when sugar workers and housewives gathered at the headquarters of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) in Kingston, Georgetown where they complained of not having enough funds to meet their basic needs or to cover the educational needs of their children.
“If you [are] willing to do a business, nobody won’t support the business, because the finance not coming and people don’t even want to shop because of the children and the expense in the home. I have a son who writing CXC and everyday he got SBA, use the Internet, ink but we can’t get it because me ain’t working, the husband ain’t working so we glad if we could get we severance,” a mother living in the area pointed out.
Another aggrieved housewife and mother of five, Salima Bacchus shared similar sentiments, saying that her husband, Haseer, a former cane cutter, is only finding work in carpentry sometimes for one or two days a week. She further lamented her difficulties in being able to pay her bills.
Gordon Thomas, an ex-tug captain at the Estate, was one of the few who secured his severance package, but he felt that it was necessary to support his fellow workers. At the GAWU gathering, he noted that the community of Wales was a far cry from the prosperous area which was seen in the past.
“It pains us that communities and people that were once so vibrant, happy and joyful are now forced to contend with greater unemployment, crime, destitution, misery, staring poverty and other anti-social behaviour,” Thomas lamented. He noted that workers who used their severance to purchase cars were contending with saturation of the market, coupled with fewer passengers travelling on the roads.
He highlighted that many of his colleagues who were able to secure jobs in the wake of the closure are confronting issues of “lesser wages” and “reduced work opportunities”.
Father of six, Romeo Charles had worked with the Estate for 20 years before being retrenched. He said that many residents were going hungry but were afraid to admit their plight.
“It ain’t easy for people right now in Wales and all what we asking the Government to do is ensure that we get we severance because we deserve it. It’s not something that we begging for. We work we whole life with GuySuCo tirelessly and it not we fault that the estate close, is they close it,” Charles observed.
After several months, the High Court is still to list the severance matter before a judge. (Shemuel Fanfair)