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Dec 19, 2014

B.S.C.F.A. Refuses to Sign Cane Purchase Agreement

Tonight, the sugar industry is in a serious state of limbo, and tensions in the north are rising. The B.S.C.F.A. has refused to sign onto the purchasing agreement, the N.T.U.C.B. has jumped into the fray and B.S.I. is putting security protocols in place in anticipation of a protest. So how did we get to this point, when just Sunday a majority of farmers agreed to sign on? Mike Rudon has been in Orange Walk all day and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

This morning, the B.S.C.F.A. met to decide the role of cane farmers in the future of the sugar industry. There are distinctly different factions in the one Association. One group wants the agreement with ASR/B.S.I. to be signed now. Another group maintains that the proposed agreement gave too much to ASR/B.S.I.  But that’s not the issue on the table today, and it’s not the cause of the delay in signing the agreement. That indecision, and much frustration, is because the B.S.C.F.A. says that B.S.I. slipped a little something extra, and underhanded, into the final draft

 

Diodi Novelo

Diodi Novelo, Member, Negotiating Team

“We as the negotiating team that was there before…we had agreed that the HDCU was to be taken out from the contract. We both agreed B.S.I. and ASR just to find out now that since the cane farmers accepted on Sunday the three items in contention, now B.S.I. sent back the contract to be reviewed by the B.S.C.F.A. people and they noticed that the HDCU was included in there.”

 

There’s another entrant into the already dynamic and volatile situation. The N.T.U.C.B. has jumped into the fray, and that changes the equation immediately, and to a significant extent. Union representatives arrived at close to midday today, led by Audrey Matura-Shepherd. Just in case the role of the N.T.U.C.B. was a little ambiguous to the observer, she provided clarity.

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Representative, N.T.U.C.B.

“We need to make sure that the Prime Minister takes some of the Christmas Cheer money, distribute it to the cane farmers so that they can hold over for the end of the year so that they can then properly negotiate—not under duress—because they are negotiating under duress right now. They need the season to open, they also need right now to get monies for their families like everybody right now for Christmas and right now what they are doing, if they do not reach an agreement, the fair-trade money they won’t get it. So these people are not people with a lot of money to say we have money to hold us out. The company has money to hold them over, to pressure these farmers. And I am disappointed. How could the prime minister have entered negotiation and not come out with one point for the farmers. If you all realise, the farmers conceded to all three points. That can’t be fair negotiations. I am not here as the legal representative of anyone. I am here as the National Trade Union Congress and as the president of the CWU and thank god yes I do have a law degree so the [bleep] they try and put on the farmers, when they try to insert a new clause cannot happen.”

 

While that meeting between the B.S.C.F.A. and the N.T.U.C.B. was underway, there was some movement out of B.S.I.  It started with an announcement that factory reps would be holding a press conference to, “clear up certain misleading information being propagated through the media.” When we got there, though, it was to find a cement blockage across the entrance to the factory. And then, we were told that the press conference had been cancelled and staff had been sent home…we assume in anticipation of a protest by cane-farmers. Back at B.S.C.F.A. headquarters, the meet had ended, and the announcement out of that meeting was as expected – no agreement signed.

 

Ezekiel Cansino, Chairman, Committee of Management, B.S.C.F.A.

“We understood and we were clear in negotiations that the SCPC will be the body who will be regulating the harvesting and delivery and rejection programs and that was not included over there. So we return the proposal to them asking them to include that. In turn they gave us part of it but it was not completely. And today, we put it in record and decided that this will be the last chance that we will be sending them the proposal to include the SCPC as the regulating body. If that doesn’t happen well a decision has to be made and we have to come back again to the eighteen directors and decide what will be the next step.”

 

Ezekiel Cansino

As to those protest preparations at the factory…well, don’t take our word for it because we don’t really expect the Association to state its plans, if any, on the media. But Chairman Cansino says it won’t happen – at least not yet.

 

Ezekiel Cansino

“The B.S.C.F.A. has in no time to encourage any protest or any demonstration, but that is not out of the options and we keep saying that if they are the ones who are refusing to get into a settlement with this, we have to go back to the cane farmers and inform them everything that is going on.”

 

We note that there is also a distinct impression from the B.S.C.F.A. that farmers have given up enough, and if B.S.I. doesn’t show any flexibility at all, they are prepared to take negotiations back to square one. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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1 Response for “B.S.C.F.A. Refuses to Sign Cane Purchase Agreement”

  1. Rod says:

    Unu tha just some big cry babies please belizeans don’t let greed distort your vision

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