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Tears flow

RICHARDSON DHALAI Thursday, April 20 2017

WORKERS of Caroni Green Ltd, hugged each other and wept yesterday after being served termination notices as Government made good on its word to close down the state company. In all, 77 people are now on the breadline.

Caroni Green Limited was created by the previous People’s Partnership administration in 2013, out of the ashes of Caroni 1975 Ltd, which was closed in 2003 by the Patrick Manning-led People’s National Movement (PNM) government.

The company’s two farms in Couva and Cunupia, saw a heavy emphasis on planting, harvesting and processing of hot peppers with related products being exported to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

A post-Cabinet briefing on March 16, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the company’s closure saying it had an annual administrative bill of $6 million but sold only $700,000 in peppers.

Just after 11 am, the 77 workers who comprise a mix of young and old women and middle aged men, gathered outside the old Caroni Limited canteen located at Esperanza Road in Brechin Castle, Couva where they joined hands and prayed. As the group begged the Almighty to open new employment avenues, many started to weep.

Ex-worker Darsan Nanan, 54, a father of two little girls, was in a daze as he stared at his termination later which outlined his severance payments and also wished him, “all the best” in his future endeavours. The termination letters were signed by chairman Jerry Hospedales. Nanan said he was reliving a nightmare as he was not too long ago, retrenched by Arcelor Mittal where he worked for 12 years.

“Only God alone knows what I am going to do now,” he said. As an immediate means of survival and to provide for his family, Nanan said he will have to use his car as a PH taxi.

Mother of five Nikita Sankar wept after receiving her termination letter. “This affects me real bad because my children are all in school and my husband doesn’t have a permanent job. Right now I am sad and very frustrated,” she said. “Where I going and find work now? It is very hard. Nobody hiring these days because of the recession,” she added.

Chairman Hospedales said the workers all received ex-gratis payments which comprised their vacation leave being converted to cash, a payment of 45 days service in lieu of notice of termination and a severance payment of two weeks’ pay for each year worked. He said the 77 workers comprised 63 farm workers and 14 monthly paid employees.

Hospedales said three employees would be retained to assist in the transition period while another 19 would be employed on estates from April 20 to April 30.

Chief executive officer Sharma Lalla said a proposal was made for the creation of a workers’ cooperative to replace Caroni Green Ltd thus keeping the 77 workers employed and maintain the production of hot peppers and paw paw for export.

“I have told them (workers) to keep the faith,” Lalla said adding, “we have made a proposal to Government that speaks to the establishment of a cooperative among workers who would run these two farms on their own without a single cent of support from the State.” He said that Chairman Hospedales had indicated there should be feedback from the line ministry (Agriculture, Land and Fisheries) on this proposal by month’s end.



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