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Port of Belize CEO says Christian Workers union should be working together with the port

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Posted: Friday, July 16, 2021. 11:23 am CST.

Benjamin Flowers: Yesterday, the Port of Belize Limited (PBL) Chief Executive Officer Andy Lane said that the Christian Workers Union (CWU) and the stevedores it represents should be working together with the port instead of holding industrial action.

Following a CWU press conference yesterday where the union’s leadership explained they served the PBL 21-days notice of strike action, the PBL held its own press briefing to explain its side of how the situation got to that point. The union’s major issues remain the collective bargaining agreement, which has been in the works for some 18 years without finalizing, and the fact that next week Tuesday, the Government of Belize is considering a proposal to move the handling of vessels for sugar exports down to the port in Big Creek.

Lane said that he understands the concerns of the stevedores, but the timing of their industrial action is not well placed considering the level of financial loss that is at stake if the PBL loses handling sugar vessels to Big Creek.

“The PBL does not, however, agree that a go-slow is an appropriate step at this stage. We feel that it is a little premature. and it could even be counterproductive for the government to decide which port will handle sugar in the future this should be a time where the port of Belize, the Christian Workers Union, and the stevedores demonstrating that the is the best port to handle the business,” Lane said.

He noted that the CWU and PBL are scheduled to meet on Wednesday, July 21, and will either have only the CBA to discuss or will have the additional issue of moving on without sugar vessels as a part of the conversation. With respect to the CBA, Lane stresses that every reasonable demand will be considered, but that the port cannot adopt any large financial obligations because it is still in receivership.

Port of Belize Limited (PBL) is calling the Christian Workers Union’s decision to take industrial action “premature” after being served with a 21-day notice this week.

On Thursday, the PBL held a press briefing, where its management team, led by Chief Executive Officer Andy Lane, chronicled the events leading up to the notice of intended industrial action. Lane noted that the PBL empathizes with stevedores given the uncertainty they face as the Government of Belize is preparing to deliberate on whether the loading and unloading of sugar vessels should remain at the PBL or be moved down to the port in Big Creek.

“The PBL does not, however, agree that a go-slow is an appropriate step at this stage. We feel that it is a little premature. and it could even be counterproductive for the government to decide which port will handle sugar in the future this should be a time where the port of Belize, the Christian Workers Union, and the stevedores demonstrating that the is the best port to handle the business,” Lane said.

He noted that he also agrees with the CWU that the staff Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is long overdue and has agreed to meet with the union on Wednesday, July 21, the day after Cabinet will make a determination on which port will be handling sugar going forward. Lane emphasized that the PBL will be doing its best to improve the working conditions of its staff, but that the CWU has the ultimate responsibility to consult with its members and ensure that the demands they make reflect the will of the staff.

“I also just want to point out that we are a company in receivership…and if we get demands for extremely high cost increases those are gonna be very difficult to agree to agree to because we have to make sure that this business is sustainable,” Lane added.

The CWU held its own press briefing on Thursday, stressing that the CBA has been pending for around 18 years and workers are frustrated. CWU President Evan “Mose,” Hyde said that the PBL’s seeming lack of urgency in resolving the issue, coupled with the potential loss of income that may result from the switch to Big Creek, is what prompted the decision to take such action. Hyde said that the CWU is ready at any time, even before the Cabinet meeting, to meet with the PBL management team to finalize the CBA.

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