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Sugar workers learning Chinese out west

Published:Tuesday | September 5, 2017 | 12:00 AMMark Titus
Chief Executive Officer of Pan Caribbean Sugar Company, Liu Chaoyu.

Western Bureau:

The Chinese-owned Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC) has embarked on an ambitious programme to teach its Jamaican staff the Chinese language, Mandarin, a move CEO Liu Chaoyu says is destined to bridge the culture gap that currently exists at the Frome facility.

PCSC has more than 850 locals and 26 Chinese nationals on its payroll.

"It is in the preliminary stage but, yes, we have been conducting several of these classes, training the Jamaican staff in Chinese, and it is well received," said Liu Chaoyu, who spoke with The Gleaner through her interpreter, Sun Y' Dan.

"Sometimes we have some culture barriers and culture shocks, so we want to create a better working environment between the Chinese and our local employees. It is important for the success of our operation."

She added: "Chinese people are very active in learning English, so it is fair for the local employees to learn some Chinese. It will help them to understand ... not only our language or each other, but our locals will also understand the way of management of the Chinese people, the standard of Chinese people, and this will be mutually beneficial to all of us."

... Response to classes in Chinese has been 'great'

According to Sun Y' Dan, interpreter for Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC) CEO Liu Chaoyu, the four main topics being offered to local workers are basic knowledge on China, writing Chinese, Chinese speaking, and Chinese culture.

"It's early ... we have the class once per week, but the response is great," said Sun Y' Dan. "We are also planning to offer this to the local community as some residents have expressed an interest in learning our language."

The Chinese became the largest local sugar manufacturer following its US$9-million divestment deal with the Government in 2009. It subsequently invested more than US$260 million to renovate the factories and fields at Frome and Monymusk.

However, despite its massive investment, it has not been all smooth sailing for the PCSC as it had to endure a tumultuous relationship with the locals under the previous management, but Liu Chaoyu, who comes with more than 20 years' experience in management of sugar operations, particularly in Africa, took the top job with a mandate to rebalance relations with all the groups with which PCSC's operations intersect, as well as balancing the books after the PCSC took a $7-billion hit to its bottom line.

"The culture barrier does exist, including our language, and this is making the communication between our people difficult at times, but we believe it is important to combat this," Liu Chaoyu stated in a previous interview.

With one eye on maximising the 60-tonne capacity at Frome Estate in Westmoreland, the PCSC boss has also rolled out a comprehensive outreach programme to benefit the communities along the local sugar belt. She hopes that a greater understanding between both nationalities will establish a partnership that will result in the reduction in incidents of illicit cane fires.