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Chamber of Commerce concerned about implications of Port’s closure

Posted: Tuesday, July 28, 2020. 1:32 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) issued a statement saying that the current impasse between the Port of Belize Limited (PBL) and Christian Workers Union (CWU), and the resultant disruption of the Belize City Port’s operations, is a gravely serious matter for the entire Belizean economy.

The Chamber notes that the Port’s closure has already had a substantial effect on the business community since vessels have not been able to discharge cargo or receive Belizean exports in order to earn much needed foreign exchange.

“The Belizean economy is already fragile due to COVID-19 pandemic impact and the further damage caused by the business community’s inability to rely on efficient and consistent port services from the country’s primary port will make recovery much more difficult, putting jobs, investments and livelihoods at serious risk,” the chamber noted.

The chamber calls on all relevant parties to exercise good faith by returning to the negotiating table, and committing to allowing the due process established under the Labour Act or under the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to have its intended effect.

The BCCI, being the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s Employers’ Representative in Belize, underscored the fact that the aforementioned due process includes, among other things, the formation of the Essential Services Arbitration Tribunal (ESAT), to which the BCCI had appointed a representative and which was scheduled to convene on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020, but did not due to the altercations involving protestors and the Police Force.

It also involves provisions enshrined within the Labour Act itself that allows for, inter alia, arbitration proceedings to be instituted by the Labour Ministry, the primary body established under Belize’s Laws to ensure conciliatory outcomes in labor matters.

Consequently, considering that the processes outlined under the Law has been activated, and the right to appeal is also available under the laws of Belize, the BCCI estimates that the PBL, CWU  and the Ministry of Labour have sufficient means available to them to ensure amicable outcomes without further exacerbating the already depressed economic conditions brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic.

“Belize needs a fully functional PBL, and the PBL needs the right mix of labor to remain viable and functional.  Companies around the world are adjusting their business models to survive this global pandemic, and it behooves leaders on both sides to appreciate these new realities, to be able to recalibrate expectations. There must be a way to restore the pendulum to its position of equilibrium,” the chamber added.

The BCCI reiterates its call to all parties to recommit, in good faith, to employ the existing lawful procedures without further aggravating actions which impact due process, with the goal of settling this dispute for the benefit of all stakeholders, while keeping the economy moving to the best extent possible.

The BCCI stands ready to assist in any way it can to make this happen.


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