CGA DENOUNCES DR. HENRY CANTON PLAN TO TERMINATE 105+ CPBL EMPLOYEES
The CGA was made aware of the intention on the part of Dr. Henry Canton to close down the operation of the Citrus Company of Belize Ltd processing facility at the start of the 2011/12 crop year.
We are aware that Dr. Henry Canton has sought a meeting with Government to discuss this plan and has had members of the management team sound out union officials, promising them a detailed plan sometime in the month of June.
Last week Thursday, at a meeting of the Pound Solids Committee, a member of the CPBL management team mentioned the plan to close the CCB processing plant. A member of the CGA Committee of Management who happens to be a Director of the CPBL pointed out that it was unacceptable that such a material decision was being discussed in public but that as a member of the Board of Directors of CPBL he was not aware of any such concept or plan. He pointed out further that Belize Citrus Growers Association Company Ltd (BCGAICL) was totally unaware of such a plan and as the majority shareholder should have been consulted especially in light of the grave consequences that such a move would have on many of the employees at CPBL and on the local economy in the South. This would not mark the first time decisions are taken at CPBL that the directors of the majority shareholder know nothing about. As an example we point to the launch of Banks Beer in Belize that is imported and distributed by CPBL. Like all Belizeans the directors learnt of this via the media. We have every reason to believe that this could be a similar circumstance where Dr. Henry Canton in discussion with Banks – Barbados hatched this plan.
It is in this context that we have decided to make fully public the initiatives that Dr. Henry Canton is contemplating at CPBL. The public is reminded that Dr. Canton was terminated by CPBL at its December 17th 2010 Extraordinary General Meeting. Dr. Henry Canton with the support of Banks – Barbados directors on the CPBL Board has refused to demit office.
We see this latest move as yet another clear indication of Dr. Henry Canton’s failure at CPBL and yet another sign that he is doing potentially irreparable damage to the Citrus Industry. It is a crying shame that he and some senior managers at CPBL have been misleading the hard working employees at CPBL to frighten them to believe that when Henry Canton leaves CPBL their jobs would be at risk. As reported by some members of the CPBL staff they have, under duress, been made to sign correspondences addressed to the Office of the Prime Minister which are published in the national newspapers. Now all the employees of CPBL are hereby being made aware that the same Dr. Henry Canton whose job they try to save is crafting a plan that will result in the laying off of 105 of them plus additional management personnel.
As the majority shareholder, we cannot readily entertain such a proposal. Such a decision would have far reaching implications for many stakeholders and this should not be a first option. There are numerous questionable happenings at CPBL that if properly managed and addressed would not necessitate the contemplation of this sort of action. As we have been saying for a long time now, products are being undersold with Henry Canton doing the selling, the efficiency of the processing plants were lagging for the past two years 2.3% and 2.9% below the testing labs only to now magically show a 5% turnaround at the time of a Citrus Control Board sanctioned investigation, questionable investments into a feed mill that saw only 30% of peel being processed this year at a time when feed prices were strong, a value added operation that saw sales double and losses quadruple and a consistent deterioration in the performance of the groves. In the case of the two value-added investments supply is not the problem, lack of markets remains the problem!
This is just another plan being hatched to try and wrestle the majority shareholding of the CGA membership in CPBL. The same Dr. Henry Canton approached Government claiming a cash flow crisis that if CPBL did not get $10m by mid February it would have had to halt operations. Yet by the first week of April without any assistance the cash flow crisis was magically solved. They backed off that plan because it was becoming apparent that Henry Canton had to exit CPBL for GoB to assist and that was not an acceptable scenario to Banks or Henry Canton.
We note that in the concept paper, which is grossly deficient by professional standards, a reference is made to the citrus greening disease. The Belize Citrus Mutual which is a private company, owned by Dr. Henry Canton and others, has lobbied Government and in effect prevented an industry wide approach to tackling this disease. The BCM has refused to be a part of any national response if Government does not recognize their private company as an association like the CGA. The members of the CGA since September 2009 have adopted a resolution to support an industry wide approach to combating HLB and the CGA continues to advocate at all levels with Government for this happen. It is URGENT!
Under Henry Canton’s tenure over $65m dollars have been invested in expanding industry processing capacity while ignoring grove productivity, although his private company has a special contract to manage some of the CPBL’s groves. His BCM claim that they control the majority of the production in the industry and so the ailing production by logic lies solely with them. He masterminded the unconscionable investment agreement that saw the growers give up 46.5% of CPBL and all decision making power for US$2.00 and as at the end of 2009/10 fiscal year all aspects of CPBL were losing money despite a $26 million dollar increase in sales. Now, with the support of the Banks - Barbados appointed directors, who are steadfastly entertaining him as the CEO of CPBL despite the company duly adopting a resolution that effectively fired him on December 17th 2010, he is now setting out to layoff the very same employees behind whom he often seeks refuge and knowing him will try to suggest that somehow the CGA is responsible – WE ARE NOT! We note that he is also admitting, despite his BCM press releases to the contrary, that the BFP facility is the more efficient of the two processing facilities.
We call on the Government of Belize to show leadership and work along with the CGA to take the steps necessary to protect the jobs of the workers at CPBL, to safeguard the industry from the growing and potentially catastrophic effects of citrus greening, to ensure the future for the citrus growers and to clean up the corruption that is killing this industry. Henry Canton we call on you to get out now! CPBL fired you and you are nothing more than a common traitor to your fellow growers and now after having the employees standing up for you, you and your operatives are secretly hatching a plan to terminate over 105 staff plus managers. Cancelling the fat contract with your private company ADS could save many jobs at CPBL, your leaving would save even many more.
The latest press releases from the Belize Growers Citrus Association can be found here.
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