Saturday 18 November, 2017

$1.2m paid to retrenched Caroni Green employees

A total of $1,251,293 was paid out to 67 retrenched workers of recently-closed State enterprise Caroni Green Limited.  

Speaking in the Senate in Thursday, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat indicated that no payment was made to 12 former employees with less than five weeks’ service.

However, support is available to all 79 former employees through the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, he said.

Mark questioned the Minister on the formula used to calculate the retrenchment benefits paid out to the workers.

Rambharat explained that of the 79 workers at the now defunct company, 43 employees had more than one year of service, and were paid severance calculated in accordance with the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, payment in lieu of 45 days’ notice and payment for outstanding vacation leave.

Additionally, 15 workers with more than six months, but under one year of service were paid 45 days in lieu of notice, an equivalent of two weeks’ pay prorated for each year of service. Nine workers with between three and six months’ service were paid the equivalent of 45 days’ pay.

No payment was made to the remaining 12 workers who had less than 5 weeks’ service.

Mark then questioned if the Minister was aware the fomula is outdated and a standard benchmark is used in Collective bargaining of a minimum of one month for each year’s service, to which he replied:  

“I’m completely aware that the formula represents what is contained at this time in the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act and the workers have been paid as I set out before in accordance with the Act, including those workers, who, strictly speaking did not qualify for payment under the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, the company ensure they were paid with the exception of those who had a mere five weeks’ service in the company.”

Asked whether any steps were being taken to allocate land to retrench workers for those who may want to engage in agricultural production, the Minister said at least 20 of the retrenched workers enjoyed more than one separation package since 2003, including the offer of two acres of land and a residential lot.

“In fact, some of these workers who have received VSEP payments including the offer of two acres of land and a residential lot - the Caroni VSEP from 2003 - some of them came back into Caroni Limited and were employed after receiving that severance package, they worked on something called the Caroni Green Initiative and when this new company was formed called Caroni Green Limited, they received a second VSEP from the Caroni Green Initiative and then having spent almost in all the cases less than three years in this new Caroni Green Limited they received, as I said before, the severance package.

So in this group there are workers who have already benefitted from more than one severance payment and the opportunity to access two acres of land and a residential lot. For those workers who have not had that opportunity before they will join all the other persons in this country who are interested in accessing agricultural lands for use, and they would apply to the Commissioner of State Lands and the Commissioner of State Lands would make a decision on whether they would qualify and whether the lands can be allocated.”

Mark asked whether the Minister could state how many of the 79 workers enjoy all the benefits listed and how many others would have to go through the process of applying for land to be used for agricultural purposes, but Rambharat said he would be happy to provide the information in writing.