IUF Workshop for Women Workers in the Sugar Sector of Jamaica in coordination with UAWU and BITU
10, 11 & 12 August 2008
The opening remarks and welcome speech was done by Clifton Grant of the UAWU (University & Allied Workers Union). He then invited Wycliff Matthews of the BITU (Bustamante Industrial Trade Union) and Jorge Chullen (IUF global sugar co-coordinator) to give some opening remarks to the workshop. All participants were then asked to introduce themselves.
Report by Delaine Clarke-Smith BITU, Frome
- Delaine Clarke – Smith, BITU, Frome
- Daphney Clarke, UAWU, Frome
- Michelle Bennett, UAWU, Monymusk
- Novlette James, BITU, Monymusk
- Rosemarie Walters, UAWU, St Thomas
- Shanice Reynolds, BITU, Monymusk
- Sardia Harris, BITU, St Thomas
- Muriel Johnson, UAWU first vice-president
Presentation of reports on estates
Monymusk by Michelle Bennett
The first presentation was done by Michelle Bennett, she explained that even though the factory is up for divestment, work was going smoothly. She further states that both management and workers are fearful that they might not have a job after the redundancy exercise, as a result there have been no labour counsel meeting.
She also noted that there are three female union delegates on the estate
Main concerns of women workers on the estate are as follows:
a. No bathroom facilities on the farm.
b. No proper drinking water.
c. No safety gears.
d. No medication at the clinic.
e. No training addressing women’s concern for the past twelve months
Number of workers on the estate by gender and area are:
Staff: Male 103 Female 50
None staff (male/female workers)
Factory: 244 /14
Administration: 41/ 17
Frome by Delaine Clarke – Smith
Delaine reported that from time to time there has been some dialogue between unions, management and workers dealing with issues as they arise. There is a tension throughout the estates as all employees are uncertain of their future with the industry after the pending divestment of the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ), which will be finalized on September 30, 2008. The 2007 / 2008 crop ended in June successfully; most employees were sent on their four-week annual vacation leave approximately two weeks after the harvest ended. As usual, they will return on a phased-in basis.There are seven females in the union all of whom are delegates
Main OHS concerns for women workers in the farms are as follows:
a. There are no sanitary conveniences/facilities
b. Inferior or poor safety gear
c. Improper disposal of empty chemical containers
d. Unsafe transportation
e. At the factory: noise and dust nuisance
She states that there is no expressed concern on gender issues, equality on the job, and maternity protection at this time. She however noted that no training program addressing women’s concern implemented in the past twelve months.
The main training needs are:
a. Information Technology
b. Understanding the CBA clauses
c. Labour laws
d. Literacy skills (especially on the farms)
e. Communication skills.
Number of workers on the estate by gender and are about 1856 this is a reflection of registered and contract workers.
Non staff (male/female)
St Thomas by Sardia Harris:
Sardia reports that there are six female delegates on the estate
Main concerns on the farms are:
a. No toilet facilities
b. Continuous error in determining salary payments
c. Non equality on the job: some workers are allowed to work every day while others are constantly sent home
d. At the factory females are not allowed to work in the factory
No training program addressing women workers concerns has been implemented in the past twelve months. She emphasised the need for training in all areas.
Number of workers on the estate are:
Staff: Male 56 & Female 43)
Factory: 173/15 (core sample laboratory and janitors)
The delegates agreed that the workshop was highly informative and beneficial to all, and promised to strengthen each other in the areas of the union’s activity.
They also expressed gratitude to the Swedish LO-TCO and Kommunal for their continuous support, the IUF and Mr Chullen for his valued effort; and the delegates recommended the continued involvement of the IUF in the sugar sector of Jamaica.
Note from the editor: Women delegates to this workshop also participated in an activity on Occupational Health and Safety in Frome Sugar Estate. It was due to their interest and committment, key to the success of their own activity, that the workshop run over three sessions: afternoon of Sunday 10 August, and on the evenings of 11 and 12 August.