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Port, Stevedores, and Ministry of Labour agree to temporary compromise to end dispute

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Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2020. 10:08 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Work is back underway, sort of, at the Port of Belize this holiday weekend.

On Friday afternoon at 1 p.m., the state of the industrial dispute was ended with a series of agreements between the Christian Workers’ Union, representing the stevedores and staff of the Port respectively; the Port and its CEO Arturo Vasquez; and Ministry of Labor headed by Minister Dr. Carla Barnett.

As summarized by Vasquez to reporters, “There is a couple of things: There is the one with the Belize sugar industry moving, there is a 21-day requirement to put an MOU together to decide how you will approach it, in addition to that there are an additional 60 days to do a complete as what it would be really if it should happen. There are 2 other days I think with the staff collective bargaining agreement which has been in place since 2002 and they have requested us to do a review of it. They have submitted their draft to us, we have given them a deadline as to when we will give our counter proposal and there is also a day to say when we will sign a document to ay how we will go through the negotiations. Those are specific dates that we have put and those were the requirements by the staff. There is a separation between the staff and the stevedores. I would imagine that they have advised the staff…”

But the Union has not withdrawn the notice of potential industrial action in another 21 days. And CWU President Evan “Mose” Hyde says they mean business: “…if we notice that when we get to these meetings there is not a genuine sense that the party on the other side is committed to creating the agreements that remedy the situation, we are going to say to Belize and to all the stakeholders, we have no choice, we have lost any belief that we are dealing with a genuine, with any quantity, with a molecule of sincerity on the other side of the table. We know that over the next 20 days there are going to be seeds of division that they will try to [sow]. They are going to try little manipulation, they are going to try create… what really troubles them is that a solidarity has been achieve between the stevedores and the staff. You have to understand that that is historic. When we came back here yesterday evening when they refused to accept and sign, immediately the warehouse and staff said well you best believe first thing in the morning we are going to shut this down and true to word, first thing this morning they shut it down. That is the power of solidarity.”

Vasquez meanwhile says the Port lost a week’s worth of business and maybe set to lose more, which helps neither side’s bottom line. It makes the next few days critical to settling what one side says really is not a dispute at all, and the other calls existential crisis for those it represents.

 

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