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Jun 4, 2004

Strike still on but sugar factory operates

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The deadlock continues in the sugar industry tonight with the vast majority of unionized factory workers still on strike. That has not stopped Belize Sugar Industries from functioning, however, as a combination of non-striking workers and supervisory personnel are running the Tower Hill factory. While B.S.I. executives are not certain that the grinding can be maintained on a twenty-four hour basis, they have told cane farmers that the factory will continue to accept cane until there is no more left to deliver. While this may extend the season beyond its scheduled closing date in around three weeks time, it is not expected to significantly reduce total sugar production. The company has offered workers a one-year bonus ranging from one point five to two percent, depending on profitability, but that offer was rejected by the Belize Workers Union which has drawn the line at a demand for a three percent bonus, regardless of B.S.I.’s profits. B.S.I. management has said it is willing to hold another meeting with the union, as soon as the strikers return to their jobs, but union officials say, pending weekend meetings with the rank and file, they are prepared to strike indefinitely if their wage demands are not met. Factory workers have traditionally received annual wage increases of around five percent in recent years, but this time around, in the face of depressed world prices and an impending end to preferential markets in Europe, B.S.I. says it cannot afford to raise its costs of production.

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