Friday, April 25, 2003

Sugar union demands answers on late salaries

By Michelle Doodhai

The All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers’ Trade Union is calling on Government to clarify why wages and salaries due to daily-paid employees of Caroni (1975) Limited for the last three weeks have not yet been paid.

A release from the union, which is headed by Rudranath Indarsingh, said the call is being made in light of recent statements made by Ministers in the House of Representatives that $500 million has been approved for Caroni.

“The union and its membership, in the circumstances, can only conclude that such statements are being played out for the benefit of the media and the population outside of the sugar industry,” it said.

The release said the statement was not made to the benefit of workers, who were given the assurance by Agriculture Minister John Rahael that late payment of wages and salaries would be a non-issue during the 2003 sugar crop.

Sugar workers, the release said, have not been able to satisfy and service their commitments to their families and financial institutions they are indebted to as a result of the non-payment of salaries.

The union is of the opinion that the situation could have been remedied within 24 hours of the Cabinet decision, through the issuance of official correspondence from the Ministry of Finance to the bankers of Caroni.

The ATSGWTU commended workers for their discipline but questioned why sugar workers are treated as “second class”.

Wednesday, April 2, 2003


T R O U B L E D   C O M P A N Y   R E P O R T E R

                   L A T I N   A M E R I C A

          Wednesday, April 2, 2003, Vol. 4, Issue 65

CARONI LTD: 2 Managers Go on Pre-Retirement Leave Amid VSEP Woes
Two top managers of Caroni (1975) Ltd. are going on pre-
retirement leave, according to a report by the Trinidad Express.
Selwyn Bhajan, Caroni's Human Resource Manager and Caroni chief
executive William Washington will officially be out starting

In the meantime, Factories manager Chandra Bobart has been
appointed acting CEO. The report indicates that Mr. Bhajan would
take up an appointment with another company, but Mr. Washington's
future plans were not indicated.

"I am going on pre-retirement leave. All senior staff who had
accumulated leave had been asked to taker that leave from April,"
said Mr. Washington.

The CEO's exit raised rumors that he was sent on leave, but there
were no confirmations whether it was Minister of Agriculture John
Rahael or from the Chairman of the Board Kusha Haracksingh who
ordered the leave, if there was any.

All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union president
Rudranath Indarsingh said, "We must now assess the people at the
helm of the company. We must also ask whether this plot to send
Washington home is part of the PNM's agenda to ensure that Caroni

Trinidad Islandwide Cane Farmers Association president Raffique
Shah accepted that it is time for Mr. Washington to leave,
although he admitted that no experienced personnel should be sent
home at this time.

The restructuring of Caroni has caused a rift between unions
representing its workers, the management, and the government.

CONTACT:  Caroni Limited
          Old Southern Main Road, Caroni,
          Trinidad & Tobago
          Phone: (868) 663-1781 or 662-0879
          Fax: (868) 663-1404

          All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers' Trade Union
          Rienzi Complex
          Exchange Village
          Southern Main Road, Couva.
          President: Mr. Boysie Moore-Jones
          General Secretary: Mr. Rudranath Indarsingh
          Tel. 868-636-2354
          Fax. 868-636-3372

CARONI LTD: Opposition Refuses to Present Motion for Debate Again
The People's National Movement Government failed to convince the
Opposition to present a motion paving the way for a debate on the
restructuring of Caroni (1975) Ltd., reports the Trinidad

This is the second instance that the Opposition declined to
present a motion to start the debate. Two weeks ago, Prime
Minister Patrick Manning publicly challenged the UNC to present a
motion for full debate in the House.

At a meeting on Friday, House Leader Ken Valley presented a
motion to have the Standing Orders suspended to allow for the
motion by the Opposition.

However, Opposition Chief Whip Ganga Singh declined the offer
while the Opposition Leader shouted: "All you think we born
yesterday?", said the report.

Mr. Singh argued that it was the government's responsibility to
first present the plan, and then move the motion.

CARONI LTD: Industrial Court Bans Promotion of VSEP to Workers
Caroni (1975) Ltd. is barred from promoting its offer of the
Voluntary Separation of Employment Plan (VSEP) to its employees,
as stipulated in an injunction issued by Addison Khan, president
of the Industrial Court on Friday.

The injunction, effective starting Sunday, also orders that the
Company should not treat those who have accepted the VSEP package
as though they have completely terminated their employment.

The All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers' Union (ATSGWU) filed
for the issuance of the injunction on the grounds that the
Company failed to negotiate the VSEP with the union, which
represents Caroni employees.

"I do not consider that the company will suffer any harm if I
granted the injunction. On the other hand, if I do not grant the
injunction, the union and the workers are likely to suffer
irreparable damage," commented Mr. Khan, who issued the
injunction after almost five hours of hearing submissions.

The union was represented by attorneys Douglas Mendes, Dave Cowie
and Ashvani Mahabir, while the Company's lawyers were Reginald
Almond, Kerwin Garcia and Allan Alexander, who requested for the
dismissal of the injunction as the same issue had been raised in
a high court matter, said the report.

Although ATSGWU president general Rudy Indarsingh was pleased
with the ruling, he remained careful, saying the injunction is
temporary and did not want to get too hopeful.

CARONI LTD: Official to Discuss VSEP During Conference
Oropouche MP Roodal Moonilal said that he will discuss the issue
of Trinidad and Tobago state sugar enterprise Caroni (1975) Ltd.
during the First Caribbean Labour Policy Conference in Jamaica.

The meeting, organized by the Mona School of Business and the UWI
Department of Management, will be attended by government leaders,
trade unionists, employers and academics from the Caribbean and
North America. Labor and employment policies in the new Caribbean
economy will be discussed.

Mr. Moonilal was quoted by the Trinidad Guardian saying that he
intends to raise the controversial "forced" Voluntary Separation
of Employment Plan (VSEP) the People's National Movement
Government is offering to about 9,000 Caroni employees.

"This issue will be raised within one of the conference sub-
themes on "Labour Policy and Public Sector Reform," he said.

The conference, to be held at the University of the West Indies,
Mona Campus, is aimed at providing a mechanism for developing
policy guidelines about issues relating to the labor market,
labor legislation, and labor employment relations in the

Mr, Moonilal, who claims he spent more than four years collecting
data on employment practices in the security industry, said he
intends to present the paper entitled: "Even the Dogs are Better
Off: Labour Relations in the Informal Sector of Trinidad - A Case
Study of the Private Security Industry"