THE positions of more than 200 employees of the Bernard Lodge sugar estate in St Catherine are to be made redundant this week, the Jamaica Observer has learnt.
The redundancies were scheduled to take effect yesterday, a decision relayed to trade unions representing the workers at a meeting with representatives of Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC) on December 5.
Pan Caribbean — the Chinese firm which in 2011 took control of Jamaica’s main sugar factories in Frome, Monymusk and Bernard Lodge Estate — informed the unions of its decision to move into a new management arrangement with an unnamed Westmoreland firm by year-end.
The company said that 215 workers would be made redundant on December 17, and that notice and redundancy payments would be made to them on Monday, December 22.
But, according to Harold Brown, assistant island supervisor of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), since that meeting the unions’ consultations have led to some “serious” reservations about PCSC’s real intentions.
He said in light of that, the unions have called on Pan Caribbean to put the redundancies on hold until the issues are resolved.
Brown said the unions are concerned that given the terms and conditions of PCSC’s lease agreement with the Government for sugar lands at Bernard Lodge Estate, the unions have not confirmed that the Jamaican Government has consented to any form of divestment at Bernard Lodge. Additionally, he said that unions have been reliably informed that PCSC had not received approval from the Sugar Company of Jamaica’s Holdings to divest the operations.
The unions — the BITU, the University and Allied Workers’ Union, and the National Workers’ Union — have told Pan Caribbean that they are ready to meet with its representatives, again, to resume discussions on the issues.
Pan Caribbean has said that it will be establishing 3,000 additional hectares of sugar cane at Monymusk,Clarendon, where its sugar lands are said to be underutilised. The Pan Caribbean head office at Bernard Lodge is also expected to move to Monymusk.
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