Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Sugar union: No shortage of cane cutters

By Yvonne Webb


The All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers’ Trade union has contradicted Government’s assertion that there is a shortage of cane cutters.

At the last post-Cabinet media briefing, acting Agriculture Minister John Rahael said they were considering importing cane cutters from Guyana because of a shortage locally.

He said he was told by the Trinidad Islandwide Cane Farmers’ Association that their cane was not being harvested even though they were paying cane cutters $150 a day.

ATSGWTU president general Rudranath Indarsingh also said statements by Prime Minister Patrick Manning and Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, that former sugar workers had moved on and unemployment was down, were inaccurate.

Indarsingh said: “There is no shortage of cane cutters. It is a straight case of the former sugar workers not being willing to commit themselves to the sugar industry because of the dehumanising and Cepep-like conditions under which they are being asked to perform work for private contractors and cane farmers.”

He said Government did not understand the reality as it related to the current status of the sugar industry and the unemployment figures in central and south Trinidad as a result.

“Minister Rahael must understand that the industrial relations terrorism started out in 2003 with the closure of Caroni (1975) Ltd and continues to exist because none of the cane farming associations can provide or facilitate decent conditions of work, which are articulated by the International Labour Organisation,” the trade unionist said.

“The reality is that persons have not moved on or gained what is recognised by the ILO as sustainable employment, because ex-sugar workers have not been able to gain employment which pays wages above the levels of the minimum wages order and unionised terms and conditions of employment,” he added.