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Port standoff continues; will compromise be reached?

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Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2022. 11:55 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Cabinet has been keeping a watchful eye on affairs at the waterfront.

At its briefing this week, new Minister of Public Utilities, Energy & Logistics Michel Chebat provided an update on the current industrial action by the stevedores at the Port of Belize Limited, highlighting matters in contention and reporting that the issues between Port of Belize Limited and the stevedores were currently before the Essential Services Tribunal for resolution.

The Minister also expressed concern about the impact the industrial action was having on the stevedores, Port of Belize Limited, and the country’s economy.

An example is with key exporters such as Marie Sharp’s Fine Foods Limited and Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR), whose representatives both told Channel 5 News that they are in serious consideration of moving their shipping south to the Big Creek Port, which will increase costs but prove more reliable than Belize City.

Prime Minister John Briceño acknowledged these concerns and told reporters on Wednesday that Chebat has been actively speaking with both sides in trying to find both an immediate end to the impasse and a long-term solution.

But when questioned as to whether his personal intervention was needed similarly to the BSI/ASR/BSCFA dispute in the North, he denied that he had been asked for such intervention before now: “Well, they never did call me to ask me if I can help. I have met with them before. I have met with them in October and also in November, and then Mr. Chebat has been dealing with them directly from last week. So, we have not stepped back. We have been working with them closely to try to find a compromise. But, a compromise means, not just your way, but both sides have to give in to find a compromise. So, the CWU [Christian Workers’ Union] also has to find a way that they can come to some kind of compromise in some of their demands.”

At its press briefing this week, the CWU’s president, Evan “Mose” Hyde, directly called for such intervention and pointed out that the “original sin” of privatization of the Port left the stevedores vulnerable and years of repeated abuses and insults have pushed them well past the tipping point. We’ll have more on that in a separate story.

 

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