Cotton crop in danger as Barbados Government unable to pay pickers for last year’s work

Barbados picking cotton

Labour Action a result of no pay for a year

Contributed anonymously by Rotten Cotton

Our 2015 cotton crop is in danger of rotting in the fields as fewer than 10% of last year’s 150 registered cotton pickers are willing to work, and this year the crop is almost double the size of 2014.

The problem is that the Government of Barbados hasn’t been able to pay the pickers for the work they did a full year ago, picking the 2014 crop.

Guess what folks? You promise to pay agricultural workers a certain amount for each pound of cotton and you don’t pay them for a year… what happens is that nobody shows up to pick the next crop.

Got that Prime Minster Stuart?

It’s a simple and basic concept that this government hasn’t grasped I know. The government can put off paying suppliers, contractors and government employees when the money can’t be found, and those people will hang in waiting for the government to catch up on payments.

But you can’t do that to poor agricultural workers for a year or they walk and that is exactly what has happened.

“How bad is the financial situation really when the government puts the whole 2015 cotton crop at risk because they can’t pay workers their 40 cents a pound that has been owing to them for a year?”

The newspapers and television are full of cotton stories with politicians, Agricultural Ministry officials and industry spokespeople hyping the value to the economy and the doubling of fields planted over last year but hardly anyone is talking about the growing sense of danger – some say verging on panic – that is spreading throughout the cotton community. 

Last year Member of Parliament Cynthia Forde picked cotton on her birthday and said “This is honourable work.” (Above photo of Cynthia courtesy of The Nation) Cynthia is right, picking cotton and working these fields and hills is honourable work – but honourable work demands honourable pay. Forty cents a pound is hardly honourable pay, but that is what Prime Minister Stuart’s government promised the workers a year ago and that money should be paid as little as it is.

Near the small house where I write this is a field that used to overflow with cotton every January. The last time was ten years ago and that is not long in the history of this rock.

Today that field is scrub – one of many cotton fields gone wild. No people walk the surrounding hills. No people work those fields.

How bad is the financial situation really when the government of the day puts the whole 2015 cotton crop at risk because they can’t pay workers their 40 cents a pound that has been owing to them for a year? Lord, please help Barbados.

Cotton pickers wanted for harvest season
Barbados Advocate February 15, 2015

While the island’s cotton season is in full bloom, there has been a significant decline in the number of persons coming forward to help harvest the crop.

This fall has been partially attributed to outstanding monies owed to cotton pickers from last season by government.

Cotton pickers are paid $1.90 per pound of crop; $1.50 which is paid up front by the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) and the remaining $0.40 by government as an incentive.

However, as pointed out by those few cotton pickers who showed up at yesterday evening’s town hall meeting at Harrison College, those incentive funds from government were still outstanding.

… read the whole article at the Barbados Advocate

4 Comments

Filed under Agriculture, Barbados, Cotton, Economy

4 responses to “Cotton crop in danger as Barbados Government unable to pay pickers for last year’s work

  1. Anon

    With such corruption in high places the Government’s cash is obviously being diverted to paying off the major crims aka drug dealers. Not only are tourist numbers dropping but Government corruption is now affecting the livelihoods of the general workforce. Bad news for all – your loss.

  2. This is not great news, the nation news paper this morning have mothers crying out for their money from the NIS for their maturity benefit since December, and this is the end of February. My Husband has not been payed his pension yet for February. That’s the state of affairs we have here. I will guarantee you all the politicians have been payed plus all their various other subsidies .

  3. CHANGE THE OIL DAMNIT!

    A typical story from Bim. Next up: How we’d rather rebuild bus engines than change the oil every so often.

  4. Victor

    Cotton has been an unprofitable crop in Barbados for years. The wages you get for picking it are so minimal even Guyanese workers won’t do it. Cotton has become a luxury thread. It’s so unprofitable to grow, harvest and process in comparison to synthetics it will become as valued as silk!