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Over $1.7m paid out by government to sugar workers in "goat water"

The Labour Spokesman, Saturday, 22 January 2000

Saturday, January 22nd, 2000 -- The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Government has honoured yet another of its commitments to the ordinary workers of this country.

The Government, in consultation with the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union, on Wednesday of this week, January 19, announced an 8% special 'Goat Water' payment for workers of the sugar industry totalling $1.7 million.

The payment is in keeping with the Prime Minister's pledge articulated in the 2000 Budget last December which also provided for the payment of the 'double salary' to public servants, non-establishment workers and pensioners in the Government service, in addition to a general increased in salaries in the not too distant future.

Approximately 2,808 sugar workers, including pensioners and management and staff of the St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Corporation (SSMC) received their 'Goat Water" payment yesterday afternoon, Friday, January 22 - as assured by theeGovernment.

The gross cost for this year's payment of 'Goat Water" is $1,741.571, a release issued by the SSMC revealed.

Government took the decision to meet the entire cost of the "Goat Water" payment, in view of the financial circumstances of the SSMC, a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance stated.

According to a press release (Tuesday) issued jointly by the SSMC and the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union - bargaining body of all sugar workers in the Federation - it was agreed that Government would be approached with a view to paying the workers a "Goat Water" of no less than 6.5 per cent of their wages earned during last year's sugar harvest.

Government considered the proposal on Wednesday and after taking into account all relevant factors, including the welfare of the workers and the obligations of the Government in respect of the proposed General Increase to be paid shortly to public servants and the implementation of an expansive programme of social and economic development, it was agreed that the "Special Bonus" would be set at 8 per cent of wages.

Since taking office on July 4, 1995, the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Government has paid sugar workers "Goat Water" in January 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2000 - four (4) times in five (5) years. None was paid last year (1999) due to the severe and widespread destruction caused to the country and industry by Hurricane Georges in September of 1998.

The "Goat Water" payment was first introduced in the 1970s by the Labour Government of Premier Robert Bradshaw, when workers received a whopping 25% of their wages.

The payment prevailed throughout the tenure of the Labour Government and after the unfortunate change of government in 1980, "Goat Water" was killed and buried six (6) feet deep by Dr Simmonds and his anti-workers and anti-trade union PAM dictatorship.

The Labour Government of Prime Minister, Dr the Hon Denzil Douglas revived and brought "Special Bonus" back to life in 1996, less than 8 months after its return to office. With yesterday's payment of the $1.7 million "Goat Water" package to the workers, negotiations are now in progress between the Union and the SSMC for the start of the 2000 sugar crop shortly.