The Christian Workers Union (CWU) had given 21 days’ notice last Friday to the Port of Belize Limited (PBL) and the Labour Minister, Dean Barrow on its intention to institute industrial action against PBL. 150 stevedores are expected to walk away from working on ships in a little over two weeks. CWU’s President, Evan Mose Hyde and stevedores believe the new shift system would put them at a financial disadvantage.
Evan “Mose” Hyde, CWU President: “Based on what our accountant has demonstrated is that it is going to be a neutral situation to the Port because what they are saying is that they will increase the number of times the Stevedores get to work when they limit the amount of hours they are allowed to work to twelve hours. What our accountant demonstrates is that while that may be true, that they are not going to save any great amount of money what they have done is to devalued the work of the stevedores, meaning when you work it out, they are going to be getting a pay cut. They are going to have to work more often to make the same money that they are making now.”
Reporter: “But they don’t want them to work more? “
Mose: “No, they don’t want them to work consecutive hours; reducing the overtime bonus. But essentially what they would do is have them be working more often; reducing their take home for the hour and essentially it will work out to a pay cut. The stevedores are contractual workers and so trying to fit them in to the normal work shift of other professions in our view, it does not work. Let us also point out that one of the problems we have with this is also that they don’t want to factor in that there is a cost whenever someone has to get to the job site. There is a cost and if you have them working two, three times to make a dollar then there is an increased cost just in the matter of transportation just for them to get to the job site. Then there is also the increased risk because we have had our stevedores because of the hours that they are going in and coming out, we have had them gotten killed. We lost a brother just a couple months ago so these are the things we are saying to the Port but remember this, we have said to them, we seem not to have been able to see eye to eye on this matter. Let us go on and negotiate the other items we have on the list to negotiate. They are adamant. They will not negotiate any other thing.”
There has not been any comment as yet from the Ministry of Labour. PBL has written to the Ministry of Labour, pointing out that there are steps that both parties have agreed on in light of the impasse; one being the appointment of a mediator prior to the taking of industrial action. We will keep following this story.