On 25 May, the Belize Workers’ Union (BWU) and UK’s GMB signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to facilitate communication and exchange of information, offer mutual support in negotiations and working together to build a union network representing workers in the operations of American Sugar Refining (ASR).
Belize’s sugar sector is small but quite complex, as a report by the GMB visitor described. American Sugar Refining (ASR), the world’s largest sugar refiner, became the majority stake in the Belize Sugar Industries (BSI) in 2012, through taking up debts and replacing the Belize Employees Holding, a trust that comprised BSI permanent employees and had control, until that moment, of about 81 percent of BSI. The operation continued consolidating ASR’s links between their refining interests in the EU (London refinery) and raw sugar suppliers, like Belize. A second relevant aspect is that all Belizean sugar going to the UK is certified by FairTrade, in a model that has a large transnational (ASR) controlling the processing of cane on one end (BSI) and the refining on the other (Tate & Lyle refinery in London.
These bilateral contacts provide greater support to the efforts by the IUF Global Sugar to build a union network in ASR, a key player in the international sugar sector.