-by Kurt Campbell-
Two senior Government Ministers have found themselves on opposing sides over the decision by Guysuco to begin retrenching Rose Hall sugar workers in December.
State Minister Joe Harmon today said Cabinet was surprised when it learnt of the move. But Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder, said he is supportive of the move and there should have been no surprise.
Last week, Guysuco issued over 400 dismissal letters to Rose Hall estate workers, informing them that their last work day will be December 29.
The letters were issued just a week after the State Minister announced that the closure of the estate before the end of the year was being put on hold.
Mr. Harmon told the media today that while there were plans to discontinue production at some estates, Cabinet was caught off guard when found out of the retrenchment at Rose Hall through the media.
“We believe that at least some prior notification ought to have been given to these workers… I am aware that a long time ago GuySuCo had indicated its intention to take this course of action,” Harmon said.
He added that in keeping with ongoing initiatives in the sugar industry, he believes the Corporation could have dealt with the situation a little differently.
“I can speak with respect to the Cabinet… what I can say is because of the nature of the matter, it is something that could at least come to the Cabinet and gave us notification before time so at least we could put in place mechanisms to cushion it,” Harmon said.
But moments after Harmon offered his comment, Minister Holder said the move was in the pipeline for some two years.
Holder in offering his support for GuySuCo said the Corporation really had no other option, although the government had said previously stated that it would delay the move to close the estate at the end of 2017.
“From GuySuCo standpoint there is no cane in the ground. So, there is no way you could continue the operation of a factory… so GuySuCo is duty bound to do what it has to do.”
Asked about Cabinet’s apparent surprise, Holder said he is a member of Cabinet and he was not surprised.
“Cabinet was surprised or he [Harmon] was surprised? Because I am at Cabinet and I don’t think Cabinet was surprised,” Holder said.
The Agriculture Minister insisted that after December 31st, GuySuCo basically has no employment for the workers and that’s the problem.
Harmon admitted that he had not spoken to Holder on the matter. He said he read about the decision in the newspaper and was surprised like other citizens
The State Minister said the mater is likely to be discussed at Cabinet and the government will come up with a decision in the best interest of the people.
The administration had delayed the recommended closures of two estates as a special unit of the state-owned National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) conducted a viability exercise.