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Letter to the European Parliament from the IUF English-speaking Caribbean on the proposal to reform the EU Sugar Regime

Posted to the IUF website 01-Nov-2004

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Letter to the European Parliament from the IUF English-speaking Caribbean on the proposal to reform the EU Sugar Regime

September 27, 2004

Mr Josep Borell Fontelles
President of the European Union Parliament
Allee du Printemps
B.P. 1024/F
F-67070 Strasbourg Cedex

Dear Sir,

Over forty thousand sugar workers directly employed in the sugar sector of the Caribbean are quiet concerned with the proposal tabled by the European Commission to reform the sugar regime of the European Union and the impact this would have on the conditions of the Sugar Protocol between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. In particular, we, the Caribbean sugar workers' unions, are preoccupied with the proposed reduction of by about one third in the preferential prices over the next three years. Our sugar industries simply cannot withstand such a sudden and drastic change.

In recent, our industries have undertaken several initiatives to adjust to the new conditions of the world sugar market. Some, like Guyana and Belize, have embarked on an expansion program, looking to increase production and reduces unit costs. Others, like Jamaica and Barbados, have closed some production facilities. In these processes, worker and their families have endured hardships and made sacrifices to maintain the sugar industry, because of its importance to the social, economic and political stability of our countries. Our unions have made every effort to participate in the process of reconstructing of the industries because the ultimate goal is to achieve development and ensure the wellbeing of our peoples. All these efforts would be meaningless if the EU/ACP sugar preferential price is cut in the amount and in the period proposed by the European Commission. Our request, our demand, is for the European Union to withdraw the proposal to cut the ACP sugar preferential price.

We, the representatives of workers labouring daily in the Caribbean sugar industry, are aware of the conditions prevailing in the world sugar economy and the need to reconstruct our sugar industries. We are also aware of the potential of sugar to be a real engine for development in our countries. Therefore, we are pleased with the proposal of the European Commission to open a dialogue and trade and development with the ACP Sugar Protocol countries. Trade and development negotiations, however, cannot take place against the background of the price reduction proposal: if the proposal were passed, most of our economies would suffer greatly and talks about development would sound hollow. We, the Caribbean sugar worker unions affiliated to the IUF, expect to actively participate in the trade and development negotiations between the EU and Cariforum, because we represent the several thousand workers and their families, who directly depend on the sugar industry for employment and because development only happens when decent employment is available for the workers.

Eight of the nine-sugar worker unions in the Caribbean are affiliated to the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations (IUF). The IUF, a global union federation, is in a privileged position to speak on behalf of Caribbean sugar workers and their unions, based on affiliation and the on-going educational and unionization programs in the sugar sector. With 336 affiliated unions, representing some 12 million workers in 120 countries worldwide, the IUF affiliates sugar worker unions in 14 of the 16 ACP Sugar Portocol countries, in addition to India. The IUF therefore, represents a real international trade union perspective on sugar workers' concerns and development.

We therefore, request that you use your best endeavours to have the proposal withdrawn for reduction on the EU/ACP preferential sugar price, as a step towards meaningful talks on trade and development.

Yours sincerely,

Signed: E. Le Vere Richards, IUF Caribbean Regional Secretary

On behalf of the IUF affiliated sugar unions in the Caribbean, namely:

All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union (ATSGWTU) - Trnindad
The Barbados Workers Union (BWU) - Barbados
The Belize Workers Union (BWU) - Belize
The Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) - Jamaica
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers' Union (GAWU) - Guyana
The National Association of Agricultural Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) - Guyana
St Kitts/Nevis Trades and Labour Union (SKNT&LU) - St. Kitts
University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU) - Jamaica

cc: Mr Javier Solana, Secretary General of the Council of the European Union
Mr Ron Oswald, General Secretary, IUF, Geneva
Hon. Walford Gumbs, President, IUF Caribbean Regional Office
General Secretaries, All Caribbean Affiliated Sugar Unions
Mr Jorge ChullÚn, IUF Global Agricultural Co-ordinator

Please refer to Sugar Worker for more information on the European Commission proposals.