Sunday, March 14, 2004

Keep up the struggle, sugar workers told

By Adrian Boodan

Protesting employees at the Usine St Madeleine Sugar Factory operated by the Sugar Manufacturing Company Ltd have been told “not to give up the struggle” by Rudy Indarsingh, president of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union.

Indarsingh said yesterday that he had called on the workers to ensure decent conditions and standards are met, “not only at the SMCL, but everywhere, and not to give up the struggle.”

Workers at the USM’s milling operations downed tools last Thursday and walked off the job. The action closed the operation of the factory and is said to be costing the SMCL $1.75 million in lost revenue daily.

Indarsingh said in an interview yesterday that workers of the SMCL have been approaching the ATSGWTU on an individual basis seeking advice. He said the workers at the sugar factory said they got none of the benefits which they enjoyed while employed with the former Caroni 1975 Ltd.

He said cane cutters and other labourers employed on the field by contractors were also coming to the ATSGWTU saying they were being threatened with dismissal if they joined any representative body.

Indarsingh said if approached, the ATSGWTU will have no problems in representing the workers who had embarked on industrial action. When asked if the ATSGWTU was behind the current action at USM, Indarsingh said:

“There are other places where the workers are protesting. Are any of the unions behind them? When people are pushed, they will react. Food prices are escalating, and workers are forced to undergo conditions similar to slavery and indentureship.”

Indarsingh reminded that the right to award successorship for representation was bluntly refused to the ATSGWTU during the negotiations when the State moved to close the operations of Caroni 1975 Ltd and open SMCL.

He said, too, the 2004 crop was doomed to failure because the state brought in the same people who ran Caroni to manage the SMCL. “They have brought nothing new and they have nothing new to add,” he said.