Fifteen years after the closure of Caroni (1975) Ltd and the end of the sugar cane industry, over 4,000 ex-Caroni workers are still waiting on residential and agricultural plots of land promised to them after the shutdown. The All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union (ATGWU) led by president general Nirvan Maharaj issued a press release stating that the workers may not receive what is legally due to them as rumours abound about the imminent closure of Caroni Limited - the company formed to oversee the assets of the defunct Caroni (1975) Ltd including vast acreage of land.
“It cannot be that almost 15 years after the shutdown of the sugar industry and despite a High Court order, 4,000 citizens of this country, working class citizens that is, are still awaiting a severance package that is legally owed to them. This is not a gift or a hand out but a legal entitlement by law,” Maharaj said.
“What is even more frightening, are the rumours circulating that operations of Caroni (1975) Limited, which is responsible by law to ensure that every single ex-Caroni worker receive their legal entitlement, is being drastically reduced, leading to a wind-up of its operations. (All of this) even while 4,000 ex-Caroni workers are still waiting,” he stated.
Maharaj, who is also the National Solidarity Assembly (NSA) political leader, stated that almost 25 per cent of former sugar workers had already died while awaiting their severance package, leaving many beneficiaries unsure of how to access their beneficial interest. “In light of this tragedy of colossal proportions, the National Solidarity Assembly is once again calling on the Government to expedite the distribution of outstanding lands and leases owed to almost 4,000 ex-Caroni workers,” he stated.
He said Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Minister Clarence Rambharat has to ensure that all outstanding payments are made to contractors to ensure the continued development of those lands which have been allocated to ex-workers.
“We wish to remind Mr Rambharat that on assuming the portfolio of Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, he promised that in one year’s time, this long outstanding issue would be positively concluded. To date, thousands of ex-Caroni workers are still waiting for their residential and agriculture leases, while Government continues to breach the Mandatory Court order of the Deyalsingh Judgment of 2007, and the consent order of the Industrial Court of 2003,” Maharaj stated.
“In this time of an economic downturn and an increasingly volatile industrial climate this nation, its government, the opposition and those in authority must not be allowed to forget that there are thousands of ex-Caroni workers waiting, not on a gift or a handout but a legal entitlement due to them by law, (and refusal to do so is) a clear violation of the rule of law and an abuse of the Industrial Relations process,” Maharaj stated.