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Ex Caroni workers to march in Port-of-Spain

By LAUREL V WILLIAMS Monday, July 14 2014

HUNDREDS of ex-Caroni (1975) Limited workers are expected to march into Port-of-Spain on Friday following which they intend to deliver a letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar demanding that she address outstanding issues relating to the closure of the company.

President of the Sugar Boilers Association (SBA) and co-ordinator of the Ex-Caroni Workers Association, Rakeeb Mohammed, told Newsday that upon delivering the letter, they are giving her 10 days to respond.

Failure to respond, he added, would result in daily protest action in Port-of-Spain. “We are expecting more than 1,000 people to attend on Friday from 10 am at the Queen’s Park Savannah. We will be walking from the Savannah to the Diplomatic Centre to deliver the letter. We are giving her a 10-day deadline to respond to us. If no response, after that, we will intensify our protests on a daily basis in Port-of-Spain,” Mohammed explained.

The Diplomatic Centre located at La Fantasie Road at St Ann’s is on the same compound of the Prime Minister’s official residence. The march is a collaboration among members of the SBA, the Ex Caroni Workers Association and the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union (ATGWTU). Mohammed noted that the letter outlines the outstanding issues for the past 11 years of the now defunct Caroni (1975) Limited in which a promised package to workers has not been completed.

He noted that as part of the Voluntary Separation Employment Programme (VSEP) package, Caroni workers were each promised a two acre plot of agriculture land plus a residential lot. “We are demanding that the Prime Minister take immediate action.

Up to today only about 1,900 people received residential plots and about 2,300 received the agricultural plots. They received these leases but with no infrastructural work in place for the agriculture,” Mohammed charged.

He further charged that most of the residential plots given had no supply of electricity, water and sewer. Mohammed explained that the ex-Caroni workers are getting ‘real trouble’ accessing water and electricity. In addition, some recipients of agricultural leases three years ago still do not know where the plots are.

“In 2007/8, a High Court judgement noted that the government of the day should give each Caroni worker a residential plot with all infrastructural works plus a two acre agricultural plot with all infrastructural work,” Mohammed said. This ruling, Mohammed recalled, was appealed by the then ruling Peoples’ National Movement (PNM) government. Mohammed added: “But when the People’s Partnership government took office in 2010, the Prime Minister withdrew that appeal and promised that within 30 days the ex Caroni workers would have been relieved. More than four years have passed and not even 20 percent of the ex-Caroni workers have received their land.” More than 5,000 ex Caroni workers are affected, Mohammed said adding that Government failed to give them the second part of the package.

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