The Belize Workers’ Union (BWU) recently signed a 4-year wage agreement with the Belize Sugar Industries Ltd. (BSIL), where the world’s largest sugar refiner, the ASR Group, acquired a majority stake in 2013.
Effective on 18 March, the agreement covers 132 factory hourly-paid employees and 21 hourly-paid employees at the Slip-dock, granting them a 3 percent wage increase, retroactive to 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015; a 3.5 percent for July 2015 to June 2016, and a 3 percent in each of the periods of July 2016-June 2017 and July 2017-June 2018. Although the agreement was reached on 27 February, it took two weeks to be signed because BSIL decided against having the Belize Labour Commissioners witnessing the agreement. The latter is a practice in the sector dating back to the 1970’s.
The BWU also signed an agreement in representation of some 75 field workers hired by BSIL. Wages will be in effect until September 2016, and vary according to the operations involved. For instance, for “Field Captains” wage rates go from 40 to 60 Belizean dollars on a 9-hour daily schedule; “Heavy Duty Operators” working from 8 to 12 hours/day, depending on the job, receive between BZD 40-70; and, on the same basis, wage rates for “Tractors Operators” run from BZD 35 to 60. Most of the jobs performed by the “General Field Workers” are paid by the task, with rates going from BZD 15 in the burning of cane to BZD 3.50 per bag in the manual spreading of fertilizer to a BZD 60 for a Chemical Weed Control Operator. (USD 1.00 = 2.00 BZD). (With information from Ramiro Gongora, BWU.)