Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Senator Simon Stiell, has dismissed reports circulating that workers at the Limlair Farm in Carriacou have been issued termination letters as part of plans by government to commercialise the estate.
“No letters have been issued, so no letters would have been received by the estate workers at Limlair,” said Sen. Stiell, who is involved in the commercialisation process of Limlair estate.
He told reporters last week Wednesday that, “the welfare of the workers is of paramount importance to us (government) and central to the process as we move forward”.
Rumours have been circulating that the 14 workers on the estate have received letters informing them that their services would be terminated at the end of this month.
Sen. Stiell brushed aside the reports as “misinformation (that) “has not followed protocol” since “the approach government is taking in the commercialising process will have the estate workers at the centre of all that we are doing.”
According to the Junior Government Minister, “the workers will be severed (meaning) that they would no longer be employed by (the) government of Grenada,” but will “have first refusal on positions within the new dispensation.”
“They would be interviewed (by the new company that would be formed by the investor) and (given) an opportunity to continue working.” he said.
He pointed out that a meeting was held on January 18 with the President of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Adrian Francis and other officials of the bargaining agent for the workers to discuss plans for the commercialisation of Limliar estate and to agree on the way forward.
Senator Stiell said that another meeting to outline plans for commercializing Limlair estate was scheduled to take place in Carriacou on Wednesday with the employees at 6.00 p.m.
“The plan is to meet with the Union representatives, the estate workers and the investor that has been short-listed to once again outline the plans for commercialisation and the impact that it would have on the workers,” he added.
The Limlair Farm, which is located on the northern side of the 13 square mile island of Carriacou is one of four state-owned estates that government is seeking to enhance through a public private partnership arrangement, which is intended to strengthen national agricultural production and export capacity and contributing to national development.
The Grand Bras Estate and BelleVue Estate both in St. Andrew have already been privatized while, the Mt. Reuil Estate in St. Patrick is still up for grabs.
Sen. Stiell noted that the 43 acre Limlair Farm, like all other estates under government control, have been under-utilised for generations.
“What we will be seeing (as a result of the commercialisation of the estate) is an influx of investment, the enhancement of the services provided and greater opportunities for the estate workers and other workers as that commercialisation process progresses,” he said.
“What the estate workers are actually going to see is that it will have a positive impact on their working conditions and how they have operated in the past…in addition to livestock production the focus would be on sour-soup production and other fruits,” he added.
Pointing to the significant domestic and international market for the sour-soup, Sen. Stiell noted that “the investor is planning to take advantage of that.”
The government minister who described last week’s meeting with the trade unions as being “positively received by the union” said, this week’s meeting would “outline the plans (of) what the investor has in mind in terms of increasing productivity within the estate.”
“The next step in the process is for the estate workers to get an understanding of the plans that the investor has and how they would be affected”, he told reporters.
He noted that although “the investor has been short listed, discussions are ongoing ” and “it would be unfair” to disclose the investor’s identity at this time.
He said the announcement “as it relates to exactly who the Limliar estate investor is, would be released in due course.”
It is alleged that the negotiations are taking place for the commercialisation of Limlair Estate with Lindsay Gillette, the Trinidad and Tobago-born investor involved in another of the state-owned farms.
Speaking with THE NEW TODAY last week Friday, President of the PWU, Adrian Francis said he is hoping for very fruitful discussions in the best interest of the estate workers.