BSCFA and BSI at Stalemate Despite Government Intervention and Union Support
After two days of negotiations, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) and the Belize Sugar Industries (BSI) remain at an impasse despite GOB’s intervention and the labor unions’ support. Yesterday, the crop season got off to a rocky start, with the BSCFA refusing to deliver cane and taking to the street to demonstrate their frustration. The BSCFA requested a one-year deal, but the mill says it continues to offer a long-term deal, which, it says, will bring greater stability to the industry. The stalemate resulted in a meeting of BSI representatives and Minister of Agriculture Jose Mai to negotiate a collective agreement for the association. BSI/ASR says the BSCFA wants to be paid fair trade premiums for the last two years but doesn’t have a letter of agreement with Tate and Lyle, which makes them ineligible for any premiums. The company adds, in its latest release, that “the BSCFA does not want to accept terminology amendments, related to the move to Big Creek, to cover legitimate costs for sugar loading and freight.” BSI says it would be unfair for them to pay 100% of the costs for the BSCFA while the other associations have agreed to continue sharing these costs.” Today, negotiations continued with Minister Mai, BSI, and the Prime Minister, however, despite GOB’s efforts, the parties were unable to agree. Javier Keme, BSCFA’s Finance Committee Chairman, says that while the association feels it is back at square one, it is now willing to sign a two-year agreement with certain stipulations.
Javier Keme, Chairman of the BSCFA Finance Committee: “The proposal brought forward by the Belize Sugar Industry it was always a period of three years nothing less and that is one on the table. What we are working with is to find a way on how that can be beneficial to the farmers in the least way possible that they are safeguarded in the other aspects for example the fairtrade premium. In essence the agreement is the same, the proposal is the same proposal BSI has brought forward which is three years. That’s the term. We lack conversations because BSI is not talking to us they’re talking to the Prime Minister. So the last presentation made to us was that so our position was that on that proposal we made some requests and the ball is on their side but the term is three years.”
The association has garnered the support of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), the Belize National Teachers Union, and the Public Service Union and is now calling on the entire country to back them up. NTUCB President Luis Luke Martinez says the umbrella organization found it important to extend support to the BSCFA.
Luis Martinez, President, NTUCB: “As the National Trade Union Congress we also take this opportunity to implore upon every stakeholder, to implore upon every Belizean, to implore upon the Orange Walkenos, to implore upon the Corozalenos to come and support. We implore upon the other sugar association to participate in what is happening here because this is how history is written and this is how history is galvanized when we have one or two men who are willing to stand up for what is right and then the masses join. That is important for us to understand that your fight is my fight hence the presence of the Trade Union Congress here. We understand solidarity and we committed we are committed to stand with BSCFA even after they have achieved what are their strategic goals and objectives because together we have to understand that there’s a lot of national issues that we the National Trade Union Congress have been working on and also they have committed to us that together we will work on some of those issues together.”
Up to news time, the group remains unable to settle on an agreement with BSI/ASR.