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Pickers’ cotton shock

Randy Bennett

Pickers’ cotton shock

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CLOSE TO 30 seasonal cotton pickers were sent home on Tuesday from Wakefield Estate, St John, on just their second day on the job.
Just after 10 a.m., the workers said they were visited by representatives from CLICO, owners of the estate, who explained to them that their services were no longer required.
When a NATION team arrived minutes after their departure, the disgruntled workers were still gathered on the compound, discussing their unexpected separation.
“They claim that they don’t have no money. So now we going home and we going to be off for 13 weeks,” an upset Francine Hackett argued.
She revealed that on Monday, the first day of their proposed two-week contract, they had struggled to meet their usual quota due to the poor quality of the cotton. She added it had resulted in lacklustre returns for her colleagues as well as herself.
“I worked from seven in the morning yesterday [Monday] and all I ended up with was ten pounds of cotton. That only works out to about $15,” Hackett lamented.
Things were even worse for Josalyn Bailey and Maureen Jordan, who collected three and six pounds, respectively.
“You can believe I work for a whole day and only picked three pounds? What am I supposed to do with $4.50?” Bailey questioned.
In response, CLICO’s senior manager of marketing and business development, Renatta Mohammed, maintained the workers were not dismissed.
“There were no dismissals at Wakefield. Seasonal workers employed by Todds Estates Ltd were asked to assist in the harvesting of cotton since there is no further work available at this time for those workers not involved in the harvesting of sugar cane,” she said in her reply via email.
“All existing cotton pickers continue to work as normal as there is still much cotton to be picked with the extension of the cotton harvesting season to May 31. With no further work available for those seasonal workers involved in the harvesting of sugar cane, an opportunity was provided for them to earn income in the harvesting of cotton in preference to seeking other people.”
Mohammed further stated that “once the conditions are ripe for employment, we will engage those workers willing to be employed on a seasonal basis”.
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