At a press conference on Wednesday organised by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU), a handful of former sugar workers complained of how difficult life has been since they were thrown on the breadline.
Two former workers of the Wales Sugar Estate complained how a lot of their friends’ wives are leaving them because they are unable to provide for their families.
Mark Salmon said: “Sometime yuh wife gon go wake up 6 ‘o’ clock to look for a job and the people them where she working hustling she more than you. They tryna fuh tek way you wife cause she nice. That’s the disadvantage that we getting as poor people right now.”
Michael Chatoo said: “I got pickney going to school and everyday they coming home saying ‘daddy, look this paper, I have to go do assignment for $200 and $300’. I can’t afford it. From 2016 to now, I can’t afford it. Me wife go away and lef me for the same thing.”
The former workers also complained of difficulties in finding jobs.
Glendon Grant, who worked at the Rose Hall Estate, said communities in East Canje Berbice are extremely depressed.
Grant said: “Starvation might kill me soon. It rough. People nah get work. Tax ah raise, bills ah raise and you nah get work. How you gon live?”
The former workers noted that the monies they receive in severance are not enough to invest as GuySuCo and the government is telling them to do.
Grant said: “We can’t afford to invest it [severance]. You can’t afford to do nothing because you have to secure it [money] to secure yourself. You have to pay for your children to go to school, you can to live on it, you can’t invest it.”
Herlene Lewis, who worked at the Skeldon Sugar Estate, said: “Even if we invest we money, it wouldn’t last long. We will still need a job because who will buy from who? Because business is slow and everybody just crying out at Skeldon.”
The former sugar workers are demanding that the government reopen the sugar estates as people are suffering and will continue to suffer as there are no jobs available for them to continue earning an income to provide for their families.