Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour Dr. Carla Barnett met with the Christian Workers Union (CWU) over the impasse it has with the Port of Belize on the collective bargaining agreement for the stevedores who service the ships at the port. The last two days saw Minister Barnett meeting with both the CWU and the PBL to find out what exactly has created this impasse and to push for further negotiations. Today, Minister Barnett brought both parties together at the Labour Department in Belize City.
Dr. Carla Barnett Minister of State: “There are a few things that they have not negotiated yet and among them is the matter of remuneration that is still there in the background to be discussed and the hours of work which has not been resolved and which is the matter that brought the impasse and that is the other big thing that is there. There is an impasse. We brought the two sides together this morning in this same room and I conveyed to them that in fact we conclude that yes there is an impasse. I had talked them through this over the past previous days so the impasse is because one side says that what we currently have in place goes against the law, that’s the Port of Belize and the other side says no it’s not against the law and we don’t want to change. What we have done with regard to that particular issue is we have brought in the Solicitor General, we have asked him to prepare a legal opinion on the state of the law, what the law says about these things. So he’s preparing a legal opinion that will reflect what the current set of Laws of Belize says. But we also have to take into account, and we have asked him to do this, the international agreements such as the International Labour Organization agreements that we have acceded to if they are not yet brought into local law as well as IMO or any other agreement or convention ,or treaty that we have acceded to or may have an impact on this. So he has agreed to do this for us, we should have that early next week Monday or Tuesday we think. We also advise the union to get this legal opinion because even though they have not taken a position they didn’t previously get a legal opinion on that position and they have agreed to do that, they have retained a lawyer that promises to do it for them for early next week as well. The Port of Belize has had a legal opinion since 2012 to back up what they have been saying since then about the hours of work. That’s the only matter that’s a matter of impasse, everything else is open for discussion.
Minister Barnett says she will be meeting with the two parties next Wednesday. If there isn’t an agreement to the impasse there would subsequently be a tribunal appointed before the twenty-one days for the impending industrial action runs out.
Dr. Carla Barnett Minister of State: “The law under which the union invoke the 21 days to strike action, that law provides a process for the Ministry to determine if there is a matter than cannot be solved, that cannot be negotiated, that’s now an impasse, a dispute that cannot be resolved between the two, then we are required under that law to establish a tribunal to determine that matter. So we are preparing to do that just in case that’s what we have to do because as I said to them this morning I dont want us to be the ones that cause any delay in getting that process done so we are working. We have to identify persons for the tribunal, we have to invite the Labour Unions to identify somebody, we have to invite the representatives of the private sector to identify somebody for this tribunal and if this goes to the tribunal then they would already be established that they can consider this matter in the shortest possible time.
Barnett says if they go to a tribunal, the law requires that to be in place before the 21-day period is reached.