Port Services Now Under Essential Services Act

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Updated: December 18, 2015

A Statutory Instrument making the Port Services in Belize an essential service in Belize has been signed by Minister of Labor, Hugo Patt and published in today’s edition of the Government Gazette.  The signing of this SI now signals that the workers at the Port of Belize will be prohibited from taking part in strikes or industrial action.  A release came from the Ministry of Labor, stating, quote, “The Hon. Hugo Patt, Minister responsible for Labour matters, hereby informs the general public that a statutory instrument has been signed amending section 2 (a): Settlement of Disputes in Essential Services Act Chapter 298 of the Laws of Belize Revised Edition 2011. The amendment will take effect upon notice published in the Gazette.   The amendment will read as follows: (2) Accordingly, the Schedule to the Act is amended by inserting in the appropriate numerical sequence the following entry, “Port Services involving the loading or unloading of ship’s cargo (without limiting the application of this act to such services in relation to petroleum products, as specified in this schedule)” This amendment will make Port Services in Belize fall within the provisions of the Act, which provides for 21 days’ notice by either party (Union or Management) before any industrial action can be taken, allowing for early intervention by government into trade disputes and reduce the likelihood of lockout or strike. End of quote.  In layman’s terms, all this is saying is that the workers of the Port of Belize cannot take industrial action or partake in any strike.  If the workers have any issues or disputes they are now required to present their issues to the Minister.  In absence of an immediate resolution by the Minister, the dispute by the workers may be taken before a Tribunal.  Late this evening, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry issued a release commending the Prime Minister of the amendment made to the Essential Services Act.  The release reads, in part, quote, “The public has experienced how detrimental the strike was on the country of Belize when the Christian Workers Union and the Port of Belize failed to reach an agreement regarding a retroactive retirement plan. Considering that Belize heavily relies on importation and earns foreign exchange through the export of commodities, this shut down of the Port severely affected the economy of Belize.  The BCCI is the voice of the business community and as the officially recognized Employer’s Organization in Belize by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has been engaged through the tri partite mechanisms. The BCCI has been advocating for a comprehensive review of the Labour Act since 2009 and has made representation through the Labour Advisory Board to include Port Services as an essential service. This SI was necessary and is much appreciated by the private sector.”  End of quote.