NORMAN GRINDLEY/DEPUTY CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER
Cane cutters in a militant mood earlier this month during a protest at the main gate to the Bernard Lodge sugar factory in St. Catherine. They were pressing for better working
conditions and an increase in the rate for cutting cane.
Tyrone Reid, Staff Reporter
LIVID FEMALE cane cutters in tandem with the Bureau of Women's Affairs are lashing out at the organisers of the National Cane Cutting Competition for the disparity in the prize money.
Last year's male championship duo copped $50,000 a piece while the women took home a meagre $7,500 each.
Quite frankly, the machete wielding women are not happy, but they are still not asking for an arm or a leg. "We don't think that is fair, if it is even a quarter of what the men get we are looking for," said Julet Haughton, who along with her daughter form the championship duo that has won the national title for five consecutive years.
Said Dr. Glenda Simms, executive director of Bureau of Women's Affairs:
"Cane cutting is cane cutting and it's
grossly unfair (it is) because we don't value women's work."
Even the male cane cutters support the cause of the gentler sex. "I don't think that is fair. They should earn more money in the female section," said John Green, who is a member of last year's male championship duo.
While Mr. Green, who incidentally is Ms Haughton's offspring, is not advocating equal pay for the sexes, he said at least $20,000 each would be just recompense.
However, Dr. Simms said that the suggested increase will not suffice. "I think in all we do, we must be fair and just, therefore men and women should be paid the same amount of money for equal value," she argued.
Alfred Williams, coordinator of the National Cane Cutting Competition, told The Gleaner that the disparity in the prize money is not due to discrimination but because of a lack of funding. "It had to do with the level of sponsorship (however) we are actively seeking sponsorship so that there will be no disparity in the prize money."
NOT GENDER BIAS
While Mr. Williams insisted that the existing sponsors are not gender biased and do not specify toward which sex their money should go, he could not say why the money was divided the way it is. However, he did say that the competition was initially for the men but the "tremendous outpouring of women" forced the organisers to start a female leg of the competition.
He added that "the women at no time do the amount of work the men do.
"If the women should compete with the men...they would come last every time. We are bending over backwards to run a competition for them until we can get sponsors for them."
Mr. Williams explained that the winner of the competition is adjudged by several factors, which include volume of cane cut. However, this claim was denied by Ms. Haughton who pointed out that the competition is not based on volume but rather technique, skill and neatness.