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Jan 20

Several former sugar workers believe that the four shuttered estates should be reopened so that they will be able to make a living after they were all left unemployed following the closures.

About 16 persons, including former sugar workers and their wives, from Wales, Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara, yesterday went to the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) office on High Street, Kingston, Georgetown, to voice their frustration and concerns. They said that life after the closure of the said estates is currently a struggle.

A statement from GAWU, which was read at the union’s office yesterday, labeled life after the estates’ closure as “a nightmarish experience.” The statement, which was issued on behalf of the workers, said that their lives were turned upside down following the closure of the Wales, Skeldon and Rose Hall Estates in 2016 and the East Demerara estate in 2017. It stated that while the workers observed that it was mentioned in the media that persons have gotten new jobs, that is not the case as only a few persons found employment. “The painful truth is what they are saying is far from the truth. While some of our colleagues have gotten jobs, it’s a drop in the ocean. Many work day-to-day not knowing when today ends whether a job is there tomorrow,” the statement said.

The workers stated that they want their lives to go back to the way it was, which included them working to earn an honest living. The group of persons who were voicing their frustrations at the press conference were questioned extensively by reporters as it relates to what can be done to make the situation better and most suggested that all the estates be reopened so that the various communities that they reside in can return to “normalcy.”

One of the issues discussed was the proposal to have lands at the Wales Estate leased to former workers who were affected following the 2016 closure of the estate. Saleema Bacchus, who was attached to the Wales estate, noted that they felt bad after finding out that plots of land there were sold to private individuals. “We feel left out because remember we right at Wales, the estate close down, we cannot get a opportunity of getting a piece land to plant something or mind something or do something,” she said.

The woman, when asked what she thinks can be done to remedy the situation, stated that the government should come in to the communities and render assistance. She observed that nobody goes into the area to find out what exactly is going on. Bacchus added that given the situation, the use of drugs is on the rise as the children do not have anything to do as their parents cannot afford to send them to school every day.

Bacchus told the media that the assistance they are asking from the government is for them to find jobs for the former sugar workers. “We know that the estate is dismantled, you could open another job… for people to get work. Come in and look in to the youths,” she said, while adding that she observed in communities in Georgetown that youths were exposed to various training and that initiative should be made available for their communities as well. The woman said that the crime situation in the area has gotten worse as persons steal stuff in the area daily. She believes that because people have no alternatives to make money, they have resorted to stealing.

The former workers were asked if they had any alternative plans after discovering that the sugar industry was failing and most responded in the negative. They noted that they attempted to find other jobs but are having a hard time securing employment. When asked what alternatives they think the government can put in place, the workers emphasised the importance of reopening the estates, which they believe will bring their communities back to the “way it was.”

One man, however, suggested that the government invest in farming in the communities and mentioned having dairy and poultry farms and even juice factories which can bring employment to persons in the area.

Source: Stabroek News.

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