American Sugar Refinery and the Belize Sugar Cane Industry are in hot water again as they are in a rather similar situation with the Belize Workers Union as they are with the sugar cane farmers. The BWU has been working towards signing a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the company but that has proved to be a work in progress. According to the union representatives through a press release issued by the umbrella organization, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, since May 12 2012, BSI/ASR had written to the then president of the BWU, Ian Leiva, that it had no intentions of changing the existent agreement between both parties, especially as it relates to the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the company and BWU. According to the now president of the BWU, Audrey Matura Sheppard, such an agreement should be respected as required by the laws of Belize.

Screen_Shot_2014-12-23_at_7.46.44_PMAudrey Matura Sheppar

“We are calling on ASR/BSI to please respect the laws of this country when the Commissioner of labor makes a comment on a document, on a Collective Bargaining Agreement, it is the obligation of both parties to meet with the Labor Commissioner, discuss it and ask any questions or whatever or if they don’t have any questions about it accept the changes and proceed to signing.”

For context, both the BSI and the labor commissioner have made revisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Labor Commissioner has reportedly made comments on the document which should have been discussed in a meeting with all three parties. That however has not come to pass, yet, BSI is still pushing for the document to be signed with the workers.

Audrey Matura Sheppar

“Since then BSI/ASR didn’t want to tell the workers that they had received the comments and said they are ready to sign, that they would have sign the document without the comments of the labor commissioner it is when they called the Labor Commissioner when they found out that no there are comment that need to be considered plus you cannot sign on your own part of the processes with ever Union this is how we operate when we go to the signing a representative of the Labor Department must be there to ask to sign the document, to legitimize it.”

Dalila Ical – Reporter

“What are the reasons are there any reasons BSI is giving from refraining from including these points by the Labor Commissioner or why they are not coming to the table to discuss this?”


Audrey Matura Sheppar

“Well, sadly we have not been given reasons we at the NTUCB had only found out about it because our sister affiliate the Belize Energy Workers Union said that they had quietly tried to deal with it they are frustrate and they came to the umbrella organization and now we are pushing on their behalf, from the indication we got is that the attitude that ASR/BSI have we don’t even need to consider that you come if you want and sign with us and that is it, they said that they had written them and try to reach them to get a response and there has been none so if we do not get it resolve by the end of the year there are other procedures under the law that we can follow, the labor Commissioner has the powers to intervene on this and so the tripartite body, it can become a labor relation issue, we would really would hope it would be that because honestly if you gone through that process that far you must respect the input of the government the labor Commissioner represent the state and will not do anything to injure either party or should not do anything to injure either party.”

The negotiations have been ongoing for about a year with the changes included by the Labor Commissioner for a few months now. That however is only one problem between the BWU and the company.

Audrey Matura Sheppar

“Well part of the problem that the workers are telling us through their Union is that for them to be paid dividend they need to know what the company is making and the company is refusing to share with them their financial statements so that they can properly go to the table and make sure if their dividends are properly paid out of if they are entitled to more or if it is unfair to press any and so it one simple thing but it is the clincher to everything, if the company does not act in good faith and reveal the information to the workers and remember they are shareholders, they have the right to see these financial statements then they do not know if they are getting their proper dividend, they are saying that ASR/BSI is being high minded and you being arrogant and unfair you can’t treat your shareholders like that and remember for a long time the worker has had an interest for the company and when they took ownership by ASR their interest has been lowered because what they did was to increase the share so what use to be a certain percentage for the workers are far less now, so we see a horrible mudus operandi where ASR/BSI acts really arrogant, believes that they are above the law, disrespects the worker and now we are seeing the same situation with the cane farmers and so we think we need to flag that one time and deal with it up front it may seem contentious but you know you have to deal with it up front and you cannot pretend it is not happening and we at the NTUCB we are prepared to deal with it upfront and we will not have anyone  disrespect our sister Union.”

In an emphatic press release, the NTUCB declares that the delay and quote, “disrespect stops here!”, end of quote. The NTUCB declares that it hold the company accountable adding that too much time has elapsed with no sign of heed from the company.

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