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#415861 - 09/10/11 08:48 AM Companies Launch Butane Strike; GOB Won't Budge  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 55,669
Marty Offline
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Today it was difficult but not impossible to get your butane tank filled because three of the country's largest butane importers and suppliers went on strike. That's BWEL, TOMZA and Zeta Gas which are all Central American Companies, which import their butane form regional affiliates.

They are demanding that government allow them to increase the retail price of a cylinder of butane. Now, the price increase may be merited, but all three companies continue to operate in open defiance of statutory instrument number 12 of 2011 which means they haven't put in the certified scales to ensure you're getting what you pay for. And because of that, Government's position is that if they don't start following the law on scales then there's no room for negotiation on the price.

The Minister who's been leading the talks with the butane companies, John Saldivar told us more in an interview late this evening:

Voice of: Hon. John Saldivar - Minister of Public Service
"The Government's position is that we will not consider increasing the price of butane gas to the consumers until the importers and retailers become compliant with the statutory instrument that requires them to have scales on the trucks that deliver, butane to the house-hold, and in the depots where butane is purchased."

Jules Vasquez
"Have they explained why they are so intransigent on this issue? I count that it's almost 175 days since that statutory instrument was signed."

Hon. John Saldivar
"I think that some of it has been the mobility to get the proper scales, but we believe that they are able to get the scales, that scales are available, and with the proper efforts and desire, they should get the proper scales. And so, we feel that there is no reason that they should not, by now, have the scales that are necessary to become compliant with the statutory instrument."

Jules Vasquez
"So, the Government's position is that it remains firm that it will not negotiate until and unless those scales are in place? We know that it's not something - if you haven't been putting things in motion, it's not something that can be done in a day. It requires testing, certification, acquisition, all these thing."

Hon. John Saldivar
"Well, from the position of the consumer and those who have been following this issue, for several months now, the Government has been giving the importers and the retailers enough chances; we've extended deadline for them to become compliant, and we believe sufficient time has been given. And at this time, the Government is not prepared to negotiate anymore in terms of becoming compliant with the statutory instrument that requires them to have scales on their trucks and at their depots."

Jules Vasquez
"Now, how long is the Government able to maintain this hardline? Because while it is absolutely laudible, and I support it, certainly there is a practical reality that these people supply a large percentage - I would suspect - the majority of the butane imported in this country. How long is the Government able to hold this hardline knowing that while the reyes maybe able supply, BNE may be able to supply, ultimately these companies have a sort of lock on the market?"

Hon. John Saldivar
"Several things to note, Jules, the last time that such a strike was threatened, we did have a meeting with several of the players in this industry. And at that time, we did feel that we had sufficient contingencies in place to ensure that the consuming public would not be deprived of butane. And at this time, Government feels confident that with the other suppliers that are prepared, including Belize Gas Limited and Western Gas Limited, who have committed to the Government that they are prepared to continue to supply butane to the country of Belize, and BNE being able to take up their portion of about 25 to 35% of the demand, we believe that in the very short term, we should be able to avoid any shortage of butane in the country. In the long term, we do have persons who are interested in importing butane into the country. And we believe that if this is extended into that point, we'll have to look at that option."

As noted in the interview, the relevant Statutory Instrument was signed 171 days ago.

Government says it will engage the Central American importers during the course next week but at the same time, encourages consumers to exercise their rights by ensuring that suppliers deliver value for money - meaning, make sure you demand that your butane tank be weighed before and after it is taken for filling.

It's important because government's release claims that the companies say consumers are not asking for their cylinders to be weighted before and after it is filled.

So consumers are advised to demand weighing or, otherwise - we can assure you - there's a great likelihood you are getting less butane than you are paying for. We did a random test in February and we were shorted as much as 30 pound on a hundred pound cylinder and 12 pounds on another. And we still have not been refunded fifty-three dollars that were cheated out of - even though the bureau of standards verified our figures...

Channel 7

#415865 - 09/10/11 09:04 AM Re: Companies Launch Butane Strike; GOB Won't Budge [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 55,669
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
Press Release – Government Press Release – September 9, 2011 - The Government of Belize (GOB) wishes to inform consumers that it has always maintained an open dialogue with the importers and local producer of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and as such extends its assurances that it will continue to do so in the interest of the general public.

While the GOB acknowledges that prices for LPG are directly affected on a monthly basis due to acquisition costs, it remains resolved to ensure that all suppliers in the supply and distribution chain comply with the National Metrology Liquefied Petroleum Gas Regulations (Statutory Instrument No. 12 of 2011). Since introduction compliance has staggered and even so the GOB has over extended itself by providing extensions for compliance. The GOB’s unflinching position at present is that all suppliers exercise every effort to treat consumers fairly by observing relevant stipulated laws and regulations, failing to do so leaves little room for negotiations at the same time it only reinforces the GOB’s cases as submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The decision to cease operations by the Central American Group of importers which includes Belize Western Energy Limited, Gas Tomza Ltd. and Zeta Gas Ltd. is not a common position held, since the Reyes Group of Companies, importers of LPG from Mexico and Belize Natural Energy remain open to the public. These companies have expressed their willingness to do what is necessary to supply LPG during this festive occasion. In addition, the GOB will explore other measures to ensure that the supply of LPG is not interrupted.

In the interim, the GOB will engage the Central American Group of importers during the course of next week to arrive at an amicable solution. At the same time, the GOB encourages consumers to exercise their rights by ensuring that suppliers deliver value for money. The claim made by these companies that consumers do not request cylinders to be weighed at the point of sale is not a legitimate excuse, especially where the law is explicit. Furthermore, while the GOB is expected to weigh considerations relevant to the LPG sector it must in the interest of consumers reiterate that it will not contemplate any price increase with any individual or grouping until there is full compliance.

For more Information please contact Mr. José E. Trejo
Director Belize Bureau of Standards,
Ministry of Economic Development, Commerce, Industry and Consumer Protection

Ministry of Works Compound, Power Lane, P.O. Box 430, Belmopan City
Tel: 501-822-0446/0447
Fax: 501-822-2571
Hotline: 0-800-2-TELL-US (0-800-283-5587)

#416080 - 09/13/11 08:31 AM Re: Companies Launch Butane Strike; GOB Won't Budge [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 55,669
Marty Offline
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If you tried to get your butane filled up today - particularly in Southern and Central Belize - it couldn't have been easy. That's biggest the three biggest importers and suppliers of Liquid Petroleum Gas: BWEL, Tomza and Z-Gas, are all on strike. The three Central American companies say that world prices for LPG have gone up - but government has not adjusted the controlled price since February when a 7news investigation revealed widespread fraud in the market.

And government's position now is that it won't even discuss a price increase until the three companies outfit their depots and trucks with the scales - a requirement that was signed into law in March, 175 days, almost a half year ago.

So that's where things stand tonight: the strike continues, and government isn't budging and neither are the companies. But more importantly, the supply has not been disrupted; sowed down maybe, but not disrupted.

And that's because Belize Natural Energy and the Reyes companies are not striking and they are trying to fill the hole that's been left in the market - but it's not been easy because the Central American Companies - which are all part of the same Mexican family ownership - have come to dominate the importation, as well as the distribution on to wholesalers and to homes.

In Belize City today, that meant lines at both Belizean owned butane vendors. We visited Southside butane, where it was a principled wait:..

Andrew Flowers, Southside Butane
"It has affected me in a way that we will now have to ration on the butane that we are receiving from our local supplier and of course there is a rush because the strike that these companies have launched".

Jules Vasquez
"Ok, because right now you are they only person selling butane on a retail basis in the City?"

Andrew Flowers, Southside Butane
"Myself and another local distributor which is Brown's Butane".

Jules Vasquez
"Ok, so what has the rush been like?"

Andrew Flowers, Southside Butane
"It has been a very serious rush since Friday. In fact one of the main importers passby and mentioned to us that, you must close the depot, if you don't do that by midday Friday we would crush you when everything goes back to normal. Meaning that at this time the present price for a hundred pounds cylinder is $126.00. The intention is to sell it for $88.00".

Jules Vasquez
"To drive you out of business".

Andrew Flowers, Southside Butane
"To drive me out of business, which mean that obviously they don't need me a raise".

Jules Vasquez
"If they can sell for $88.00."

Andrew Flowers, Southside Butane
"If they can sell for $88.00".

Jules Vasquez
"Explain to me the pressure you are under right now? it's 10:30."

Earl Young, Fibbers Chicken
"We are supposed to open from by 11:00 and we don't have any gas and what happened is I don't like have they hold us at ransom, because they have already cheated us so many years ago. Now they want a raise, that's not fair. I guess it's time now for our black people to get up and stand up for our rights and stop all the talking and do some action because this is not right. There have people out here that wants to cook food that have their kids at school, what will they eat? You know what I mean; they need a home cook meal. I don't see it right for those guys to just up in arms and just hold us at ransom and don't want to sell us any gas. They have it right there".

Jules Vasquez
"How are you going to deal with all the demand? You don't have any gas right now".

Andrew Flowers, Southside Butane
"Just bare patience the gas is on its way, we ran out, we were selling and we ran out, but the next half hour or so we will start selling gas again. Just a matter of time before and we will ration it as I said and each customer understand that a ration of $25 can hold them over so that everybody can get a bit of butane and as soon as that is finished then they can come back again".

Jules Vasquez
"In going against the cartel - the Central American Cartel of importers, you are relying basically on the community to have your back?"

Andrew Flowers, Southside Butane
"I am relying on the community to have my back that is indeed so and in fact they are not relying on the community at all. These people want to crush the community as well".

Earl Young, Fibbers Chicken
"All of us have to come together and deal with this, to support the local butane dealers and let go the international ones, because they don't have the best interest of us the people, all they are worried about is money. We went through our business - they alrteady cheated us out of the little money we have".

Jules Vasquez
"You buy by the percentage or by the gallon?"

Earl Young, Fibbers Chicken
"Well we are supposed to buy by the percentage but we still get it by gallon because the truck does not come with any scale on it. So I am still waiting to see the scale, it must be fish scale we are talking about".

The gas struck came over an hour after we did the interview, but the folks were still waiting and finally got their tanks filled, but on a rationed basis. And while the Reyes Group and BNE and trying to keep the supply uninterrupted, Government is in talks with other importers to enter the market and take up the slack. They expect that in this way full supply can be restored even if the Central American companies choose to remain on strike.

Channel 7

#416084 - 09/13/11 08:39 AM Re: Companies Launch Butane Strike; GOB Won't Budge [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 55,669
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Butane strike still on; Suppliers to negotiate on Tuesday

There is a shutdown of butane gas companies in Belize City and around the country. Since Friday Gas TOMZA, BWEL and ZETA Gas have not been supplying gas to distributors in all districts. Their employees have been sent home until there is a resolution to the shutdown that is having an effect on consumers. The three companies of LPG claim they have been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars because of high acquisition costs and government has not budged for months on a price adjustment of six to eight dollars per one hundred pound cylinder. We gather that many depots are now out of stock and businesses that rely on the liquefied petroleum gas are getting anxious. Combined, the three companies supply eighty percent of the local consumption which is twenty thousand gallons daily. The importers are to have a sit-down with the lead negotiator, Minister John Saldivar, following Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting which will determine the next move on the shutdown. Tomza, BWEL and Zeta earlier today asserted that contrary to government statements, the three have been in compliance with the required scale regulations. They note that in July of this year GOB allowed a price adjustment for the same two local companies, BNE and the Reyes Group of Companies, that are supplying the market at this time even though both were not in compliance with the Scales regulations. A release from the companies says that have over two weeks supply of inventory in stock and are ready to resume supply, but cannot do so at the current prices they can’t continue incurring more losses. So as we stand tonight, the shutdown effected since last Friday, remains and a meeting has been scheduled between the importers and the government in Belmopan.

Channel 5

Last edited by Marty; 09/13/11 08:40 AM.
#416087 - 09/13/11 08:45 AM Re: Companies Launch Butane Strike; GOB Won't Budge [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 55,669
Marty Offline
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Four days after a nationwide shutdown by three of the country’s largest butane suppliers, tonight the strike continues. But a resolution appears to be near as government has agreed to a meeting with representatives of Belize Western Energy Limited, Gas Tomza and Zeta Belize. Spokesman for the striking companies Jose Mai told Love News today via telephone from Guatemala, that the strike will continue until the companies get a requested price increase.

Jose Mai – General Manager, BWEL
“We are resolute in our position, we are not moving because you cannot be selling at a loss which is our situation at this point. The position of the three companies is that we are holding fast to that position and we are not moving.”

Patrick Jones - Reporter
Has the minister agreed to a meeting with you guys?

Jose Mai – General Manager, BWEL
"Yes, we were told that a meeting was scheduled with the Minister for tomorrow at 2 p.m so we will be there and we are hoping that we can resolve this issue tomorrow."

Patrick Jones - Reporter
In a statement that the Government issued on Friday it said that a bone of contention continued to be non compliance by some of these striking companies in the installation of scales to be used in their service.

Jose Mai – General Manager, BWEL
"I think that hurdle has been crossed; all the companies are in compliance at this time. The Bureau of Standards has documentation on that, because it is they after all that do the certification of all the scales. So what we will be doing tomorrow basically is providing Government with a list of all the certified scales and showing them the location of each scale in every district so that they can do their verification if they would want to do so. I can categorically tell you that everyone is in compliance. It is funny because back in July, Government allowed I think it was a $8.00 price adjustment for the same two local companies that are supplying the market at this time and in July none of the importers including those two companies were in compliance with regards to the scales so it is a double standard, that is one of the issues we have. That aside today everyone is in compliance."

Patrick Jones - Reporter
For those listening, bottom line is you guys want an increase in prices?

Jose Mai – General Manager, BWEL
“Yes. What I would like to make clear, we are not seeking a margin increase that is something completely different, that is not on the table, that is not what we asking. We are simply asking that the formula be respected, be applied for the September acquisition cost. So yes, they would be a price increase but it is not that the three companies are asking for a margin increase, that is not the case.”

While a government statement on Friday said GOB would do all it can to ensure that the supply of butane is uninterrupted, the striking suppliers say they understand that the supply capacity of the two local companies and BNE is running low. BWEL, Gas Tomza and Zeta Belize say they have over two weeks supply of inventory in stock and are ready to resume service; but say that they cannot do so at the current prices because they are not prepared to continue operating at a loss.


#416105 - 09/13/11 10:19 AM Re: Companies Launch Butane Strike; GOB Won't Budge [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,391
Katie Valk Offline
Katie Valk  Offline
Browns Butane was delivering in Belize City yesterday

Belize based travel specialist
#416159 - 09/14/11 08:17 AM Re: Companies Launch Butane Strike; GOB Won't Budge [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 55,669
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
Butane Strike Not Affecting San Pedro

Ambergris Today contacted the island’s butane suppliers, E& L’s Butane Gas and Belmont Butane Gas, and representatives from both companies confirmed that they receive butane from these major suppliers that are on strike. But for the meantime we are not going to be affected by this strike as one company confirmed that they have just purchased butane from one of the suppliers and the other company stated that they still have butane and don’t think we will be affected.

Click here for the rest of the story and more pictures in the Ambergris Today!


C.A. Butane Importers Still Striking

The butane strike by the Central American importers and dealers of butane continued into its fifth day today.

BWEL, TOMZA and Z-Gas - who import and distribute the majority of the butane in Belize - continue to keep their doors closed for business. They are demanding that government grant them an increase in the controlled price of butane; government says it will not budge until the companies conform to the law requiring the installation of scales to protect consumers. The law was signed into effect 176 days ago and some companies have complied, but those large importers have not.

So, will there be a negotiated settlement? Well, Minister John Saldivar today told us that government will not even enter negotiation with the companies until the strike is called off.

In the meantime, the supply of butane has been affected but not disrupted. In Belize City, Brown's butane and Southside butane continue to sell butane and the Reyes group of companies along with BNE continue to provide bulk butane to industrial customers. It's not a perfect situation, but butane is available - and it's mostly of a higher grade than was being offered by the Central American Companies.

Minister Saldivar also stressed to is today that that those who have tanks provided by the central American companies should, quote, "feel no obligation to these companies and should feel free to buy from other companies without fear of penalties."

Channel 7

#416174 - 09/14/11 08:45 AM Re: Companies Launch Butane Strike; GOB Won't Budge [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 55,669
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Central American butane companies play hardball!

It has been almost 6 months since the Statutory Instrument (SI) came into effect for all butane providers to have authenticated scales on all their trucks and in all their depots. Very few of the retailers have shown respect for the Bureau of Standards by getting these scales.

The SI came on the heels of a scandalous revelation that butane companies were cheating customers out of almost 1/3 of the butane per tank.

Today, Belize continues to be held hostage by three Central American butane importers, who are our major suppliers. Since last week Friday, Belize Western Energy Limited (BWEL), TOMZA and Zeta Gas have shut down operations, and currently, only Belize Gas Limited, Western Gas Limited, and Belize Natural Energy (BNE) are keeping Belize fueled.

The three companies have said that they are requesting a raise of rates from the Minister of Public Service.

The Ministry of Public Service has since told the Central American butane companies that they would not consider an increase in rates until the companies become compliant with the SI.

That has led to the 3-day strike that Belizeans are now facing.

There are two local retailers that are currently trying to supply Belize City — Brown’s Butane, and Southside Gas Depot. Belize City customers told us that Brown’s Butane and Southside Gas had to ration the gas to provide to all the customers over the weekend.

Today, we spoke to Andrew Flowers, manager of Southside Gas Depot, who told us that these butane companies may not need an increase in rates as they have indicated to GOB.

He said that a representative of one of the three companies had approached him and demanded that he close down his depot by midday Friday of last week, an order with which he has not complied.

Flowers said that this person went as far as saying that after the strike, if he hasn’t supported them by not selling to customers, they will “crush” him by selling 100 pounds of butane at $88, as compared to the current market value of $126.

He said that this obviously proves that they don’t need the increase in rates if they can sell at $88 to drive him out of business.

Flowers has said that he will continue to provide butane to customers.

We also spoke to Earl Young, owner of Fibbers Fried Chicken on Cemetery Road. He told us that he has a family to provide for, and he couldn’t open for business at his usual time because he was out of butane.

He told us that he is upset with these companies, particularly BWEL, which has been his main provider for years, for their decision to “ransom” the butane in such a fashion, and without any warning. He said that he heard of the strike in the evening news on Friday.

GOB has insisted that they will not consider the rate increase until the butane importers become compliant with the SI. They have also opted to arrange a meeting with these three companies to establish a way forward.

That meeting will be scheduled for later in the week.


#416244 - 09/15/11 08:11 AM Re: Companies Launch Butane Strike; GOB Won't Budge [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 55,669
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

As Butane Strike Continues, Bureau Of Standards Urges Consumer Vigilance

The butane strike by the Central American Companies continued today - and there's no end in sight as government refuses to budge in a price increase. The supply of butane has not been disrupted though - as BNE is supplying local butane and the Reyes Group is distributing butane imported from Mexico.

But that Mexican butane sells for a higher controlled price than the Central American one - and that's because it is a higher grade product.

The Supplies Control Unit today sent out a release advising consumers that a hundred pound cylinder of Mexican Butane retails for $134.00 in the city as opposed to $126.00 for a hundred pound cylinder of Central American Butane.

That price for the high grade Mexican product is $136.00 in Belmopan and San Ignacio, 137 in Benque, 135 in Orange Walk, $134 in Corozal, 138 in Dangriga, $139 in PG.

If you're being quoted prices higher than that for Mexican butane, it's illegal and you should call the Bureau of Standards Hotline at 1-800-2-TELL-US - that's 1-800-283-5587.

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