Thursday, December 27, 2007

Garbage grows on Caroni lands


LANDS formerly controlled by Caroni (1975) Limited are now a haven for illegal dumping and unauthorised operations.

Former sugar workers who were awaiting leases for agricultural and housing lands said they were disgusted to see the level of deterioration that had taken place.

Workers said debris was being piled on a roadway to the Brechin Castle sugar factory, off Rivulet Road.

In other instances, there have been reports of bungalows being used to host private functions and lands being shared to private contractors after the closure of Caroni.

Debris was also spotted on lands near Roystonia and at Waterloo Road, Carapichaima, on lands once controlled by the State enterprise.

Sources at Caroni said the former sugar producing entity was no longer responsible for the 75,000 acres of lands which were now under state control.

The source said they had received numerous complaints which had been forwarded to Commissioner of State Lands Stephanie Alexander and the Estate Management Business Development Company headed by Indian national Uthara Rao.

Rudy Indarsingh, head of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers, said he, too, had been bombarded with numerous complaints of dumping and squatting on the abandoned cane lands.

Speaking with the Guardian yesterday, Indarsingh said he wanted answers.

He said the EMBD had awarded millions of dollars in contracts to security firms which had failed to secure and protect the State’s resources.

“The EMBD is taking instructions from the political directorate,” Indarsingh said.

“The millions expended by the EMBD in lucrative security contracts under Rao’s tenure have resulted in nothing.

“The lands are not seems that anyone can walk in and do anything on these lands.

“When Caroni folded in 2003, the small farmers who were then planting on strips of lands were chased by the EMBD security and their crops were destroyed.

“Today if you drive through the roads bordering Caroni lands all you can see is garbage strewn everywhere, nothing productive is taking place.”

Indarsingh said Rao had refused to sit and discuss with the ATSGWTU the land distribution process for the former workers. He said the EMBD was not taking on the High Court ruling of Justice Lennox Deyalsingh who ordered that the land should be first given to the ex-employees.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ramesh: Caroni workers entitled to free land


FORMER Caroni (1975) Ltd workers are entitled to free agricultural and housing land, says Ramesh Maharaj, head of the T&T Civil Rights Association and the MP for Tabaquite.

Maharaj was addressing former sugar workers who attended a special meeting of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers’ Trade Union at Rienzi Complex, Couva, yesterday, to discuss the ruling of Justice Lennox Deyalsingh.

The Supreme Court judge ordered the Government to hand over leases to the ex-sugar workers by June 2008.

The Government had earlier announced that the residential land was being sold for $20,000 to $30,000 a lot.

Maharaj said part of the VSEP package, which workers accepted when Caroni folded as a sugar producer in 2003, was the promise of land. He said, however, that nowhere in the agreement was it stated that workers would have to pay for the land.

Maharaj said all workers should be entitled to residential land regardless if they own property or not. He said to deny any former sugar worker that right would be unfair.

Maharaj said if the Government intended to appeal the decision of the Supreme Court, he had plans to put legal and political pressure on them to the point where Prime Minister Patrick Manning and his Cabinet could be jailed for acting in contempt of court.

Maharaj said he intended to approach the Appeal Court and Privy Council to have these matters dealt with within a few months if the Government planned to appeal the judgment.

He said the Government intended to defraud sugar workers by transferring the land assets from Caroni (1975) Ltd to the State.

He said this would have put the union in a position where it could have got anything from Caroni (1975) Ltd if the ATSGWTU had gone to the Industrial Court.

Maharaj said the public statements made by Manning, John Rahael, a former minister of agriculture and Christine Sahadeo, former junior finance minister gave the assurance that Caroni workers would have the first priority to lands.

He said based on these statements, the matter was brought before the courts.

Maharaj said the workers could also legally block any individual or group outside the former sugar workers from grabbing Caroni lands before they get their leases.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sugar union to change name

Monday, December 10 2007

THE All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers’ Trade Union (ATSGWTU) has undergone a major transformation over the last four years with the closure of the sugar industry and having lost some 10,000 members.

“Because of a drop in revenue we had to implement a restructuring plan of our own and as a result we are now stabilised and there is now the need to focus on continued growth and development,” stated Rudranath Indarsingh, president. 

At the time, Indarsingh was delivering the Presidential Address at the 70th Annual Conference of Delegates of the Union at Rienzi Complex, Mc Bean, Couva, on Saturday. 

He said, “We must be innovative and understand that this is not for politicians and political parties alone.” 

He felt that as a “union we must never lose focus of the core issues of grievance handling, collective bargaining, new trends in industrial relations, health and safety, national insurance, and HIV/Aids in the workplace.” 

He told the conference that the time was fast approaching for a change of name of the union to the All Trinidad General Workers’ Trade Union, taking into consideration that there was no sugar industry in the country. 

He was strong in his view that “labour legislation must be placed high on the agenda of this Government and more so to the new Minister of Labour, Small and Micro Enterprise Development, Rennie Dumas.” 

He said that inflation was high in the country and the Government should have it reduced “so that workers do not lose the ability to purchase basic goods and services and that wage increase realised by Trade Unions is not lost.”

Friday, August 10, 2007

Union completes negotiations for blind,62140.html,62140.html
Friday, August 10 2007

THE All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union (ATSGWTU) yesterday announced that it had successfully completed collective agreements on behalf of daily-rated employees of the Visually Impaired/Blind Welfare Association of Trinidad and Tobago, National Agro Chemicals Limited and the Daily Rated Employees of the Sugarcane Feed Centre.

In the case of the Blind Welfare Association, workers will receive a 15 percent wage increase over the next three years, improvements in Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) of 85 cents per hour on a daily basis and other fringe benefits (meal allowance, sick leave etc). This agreement is for the period January 1, 2004 to December 31, 2006.

For the period June 1, 2005 to May 31, 2008, National Agro Chemicals workers will benefit from an 11 percent increase, COLA improvements of $2,400 and other fringe benefits. The collective agreement for workers at the Sugarcane Feed Centre, provides for the implementation of a new grading and classification structure, resulting from a job evaluation exercise undertaken between the Chief Personnel Officer and the ATSGWTU and a COLA of $4 per day for each day worked for the same period.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Indarsingh: I told you so !


RUDY INDARSINGH, the president of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union (ATSGWTU), yesterday said his union had predicted the move to shut down the sugar industry since the closure of Caroni (1975) Limited in 2003.

He was responding to reports that Prime Minister patrick Manning told sugar cane farmers yesterday that this is the last year the Government would buy their canes, in effect shutting down the remnants of the country’s sugar industry.

Indarsingh said although came farming is family oriented, cane farmers have employed workers and other industries depend on cane farming.

He said, “6000 farmers may now be forced to find a new source of livelihood and this will impact on the people they employ and also the informal economy involved in the industry will suffer. Further to this unemployment would strike the cane haulage contractors.”

Referring to reports that the canefarmers themselves had suggested to the Prime Minister the closure of the industry, Indarsingh said, “I do not know if the position adopted by the cane farming community is designed to appease the government or embrace the PNM policy of inaction or continued discrimination towards the stakeholders.”

Indarsingh claimed the Sugar Manufacturing Company Limited (SMCL), the entity formed after the closure of Caroni, has proven to be failure because it was run by misfits.

Indarsingh charged the government may well be closing down the industry to pump funds into floating Cepep as a political arm of the PNM.

Indarsingh said yesterday’s move vindicated the position that the union took when it attempted to inform the national community and all its stakeholders in 2003 that the

government's policy was to close down the industry and not to pursue any strategy that was designed to ensure its growth and development.

He recalled that the Government told the national community when it established the SMCL that it would lead to an industry size of 75,000 tonnes of sugar a year and an expaned cane farming sector.

Indarsingh said, “Since then the government has not put in place any policies or strategies that facilitated the growth and expansion of the cane farming sector; the cane farming community was to bear the cost of the rural access road and agro chemicals and of course the management of SMCL and the board of the SMCL knew nothing about running a sugar mill or factory and as a result of this was in no position to improve the output at the factory.