Alpart worker regrets eight-year closure

June 19, 2017
Mervin Atkinson, a worker at Alpart in Nain, St Elizabeth.

Alumina Partners of Jamaica (Alpart) in Nain, St Elizabeth, was officially handed over to Chinese company Jiuquan Iron and Steel (JISCO) on November 24, 2016, and production is set to begin within two weeks.

The plant, which was previously owned and operated by the Russian company UC Rusal, was shut down for approximately eight years, and a former worker who is now back with the Chinese firm says he regrets the shutdown.

An elated 55-year-old Mervin Atkinson is eager to move forward from eight years ago, but he told THE STAR that he regrets certain decisions made.

He said, "The work is going on extremely well. I was with the company for 15 years before it was shut down. Now I am back here working. Is the first from I born I see so much young people working here, probably more young than old."

Atkinson told our news team that workers' carelessness caused the facility to be closed while the Russians were in charge.

"All me included. I was at the meeting when we say, 'Lock the plant and galang back where unuh a come from.' That's the worst ting we ever do. If me did even kill a million man, me wouldn't regret it like I regret that move," Atkinson said.

He also sees the reopening of the plant as a morale booster for the community.

"Everything up and running. People nuh have hand fi sell food. White, expatriate and everybody the canteen alone can't support the massive amount of people working over there," said Atkinson, who is now employed as an operator at the plant.

According to Atkinson, the plant currently has about 600 workers, and when production begins that figure is likely to double.

 

MAINTENANCE

 

"It's not at full capacity yet. Previously, full capacity was 1,500 up to 2,000. Is just maintenance going on now to get it back [up] because it was lock down for so long. No dirt not coming back down yet. It's left to the Chinese dem to say how much more dem going to employ. Most of the operations in some difficult places, they are computerising them, especially those areas that are concerned with safety and health of workers," he said.

Although he is excited about the plant's reopening, Atkinson said workers should take some blame for the closure.

"They were putting us on three-day breaks, each crew of man work three days. That would end up to like 30 hours or so, and we never want that. The Government was trying very hard to save the place, but the workers dem wouldn't allow it," he told THE STAR.

Now, he is adamant that workers should think twice before making detrimental decisions.

"Dem learn off dem own mistakes this time, and to what I gather and the experience weh mi have, dem nah go mek it happen again," Atkinson said.

He explained that the eight years of Alpart's closure was a very dismal time.

"It was ruff, very ruff. Some of the people got a lump sum of money and don't make use of it. Dem just blow the money and then regret it. Dem never know the money would go so quick. Dem think it would last long, and it end up like this. Right now, is like God save Noah with the reopening," he said.

Though he has done 15 years with the Russians, he anticipates a much better working experience with his new employers.

"Working with the Chinese, oh my God. Wonderful people to work with. I can lift my hand to God. They are not lazy. They are working people. They are not lazy like the Jamaicans dem. I prefer working with them. They put hands and heart together," Atkinson told THE STAR.

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