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Stevedores back to work, but despite face-to-face meeting today, stand-off between Port of Belize Limited and Christian Workers’ Union continues on waterfront

Posted: Thursday, May 11, 2023. 3:35 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Not much can be revealed, but the Port of Belize Limited and Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) met this morning for two hours in which a timeline has been set out for negotiations.

CWU president Evan “Mose” Hyde noted that further meetings are scheduled with the Ministry of Labour this afternoon and the Chamber of Commerce on Friday and a further meeting with PBL has been scheduled after certain responses back and forth are sent.

The stevedores are hoping to be fully and finally compensated for the loss of work caused by bulk sugar shipments moving south to the Port of Big Creek which has been in place since last year.

As of Monday, stevedores returned to work at the PBL pier head after several days’ stoppage.

Gang 2 worked the M/V Vanquish for Caribbean Shipping starting on Sunday, while Gang 5, which had been locked out last week, discharged the M/V Onego Rotterdam wheat ship.

Also lined up for discharged is the M/V Aries, which the Port had said on Friday was on its way out of Belize; it appears the Port Authority actually directed it to wait off shore and it returned to the pier head on Monday.

On Wednesday during a press conference, the CWU maintained that there was no thought of industrial action and that as chief union representative Marlon Middleton explained, “Myself, I da wahn stevedore, right, I da noh just the chief rep, I da wahn stevedore. My gang was supposed to work this week, I have a loan to pay. I di sacrifice, all ah di stevedores di sacrifice and we tiad, we tiad ah this. Yoh sih me wid my tears right now, we tiad, we tiad ah tek dis lick. All we di ask PBL da fi get affa our money mein, weh we deserve.” He added that stevedores generally feel taken advantage of and bullied, then painted publicly as greedy money seekers.

Hyde added that the Port has absolutely refused to negotiate compensation for the removal of bulk sugar service to Big Creek in the south despite a ruling by the Essential Services Arbitration Tribunal, then complicated matters by not inking a proper agreement on the “two gangs for one ship” arrangement which had been informally adopted last year. Last week, the stevedores decided to go back to the one gang, one ship arrangement which set back work time at the Port but which is expressly stated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed two years ago.

After a Friday meeting with the Ministry of Labour fell through when the Port’s representatives did not return, Hyde said the Ministry must do more: “We cannot accept that what is going to happen is that this press conference is going to fall on deaf ears and that there’s going to be no movement to get us around a table to look at this issue and move forward. I think it would be a very unacceptable scenario if we are going to be waiting around next week Tuesday to see what kind of notice is going to come out, what we’re going to hear from the Ministry of Labor. That’s why we are coming forward.”

Meanwhile Port CEO Ted Peralta says it is the Union that has gone back on its word and the country that suffers as a result. Nonetheless, the Port is prepared to negotiate with all concerned.

 

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