It has now been 80 hours and counting since the Stevedores at the Port of Belize (PBL) began protesting. While there has been a verbal agreement between the Christian Workers Union(CWU) and the Port of Belize, no written agreement has been put into play to solidify the queries. After a lengthy back and forth in the meeting last night with the stevedores, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Labor, Doctor Carla Barnett and representatives from the PBL, they agreed to draft an agreement. However, the proposal by the CWU lists a 21-day notice of strike action to be initiated once a Memorandum of Understanding has not been signed within the 21 day period. Now the stevedores are up in arms fighting for the written agreement that the Port is not bulging for due to the CWU’s conditions.
Evan Mose Hyde, President, Christian Workers Union: “The take home out of that that we brought and presented to the stevedores yesterday evening was that the stevedores would move from being on protest and instead they would utilize the provision of the 21 day notice to strike under the Essential Service Act that they put on the stevedores in 2015. The Port of Belize would then utilize that twenty one days with us to negotiate out for at the very least by the end of that twenty one days have a signed memorandum of understanding to deal with the matter of any possible redundancy. So we would have a memorandum of understanding for a redundancy compensation package and that would be up to twenty one days and then at sixty days we would have a fully fleshed out agreement that would be in place to protect our members if ever ASR don’t move it’s shipping down to Big Creek. So the twenty one days would give us an opportunity to create that security blanket. In the event that we did not get PBL acting in good faith, if we felt that after twenty one days that listen you guys have not been available, you guys were not genuine, you guys were not willing to compromise, you had no effort at all then the stevedores would then go on a strike whose legality would not be able to question it, it would be according to the very unfair categorization of stevedores as an essential service.”
During our interview with Hyde just after four o’clock, the PBL responded via email to their queries and this is what they had to say.
Evan Mose Hyde, President, Christian Workers Union: “Instead of confirming the agreements that we had, PBL is questioning what we mean by our email. Let me just walk you through that again. The email was just supposed to be a confirmation of things discussed that I took to the members. They were simply to email a signed confirmation so that we could move forward and their email says to me, this is what they write ‘I acknowledge receipt of your letter addressed to Dr.Carla Barnett Minister of State for Labor and copied to me CEO of the Port of Belize. It is our understanding from your letter that you have now invoked the twenty one day notice of intent to strike provided under the settlement of disputes in Essential Services Act which would indicate that the stevedores will return to work. However please indicate to us the nature of the dispute that has triggered the twenty one day notice to strike.” Mek I repeat that, “Please indicate to us the nature of the dispute.” meaning I noh know weh unu di talk bout unu going on strike. It’s as if though Monday to today didn’t happen, it’s as if though you all did not speak to him, did not have news stories, is as if though the meeting yesterday did not happen. “Regarding the remainder of the letter which is based on our discussions yesterday we shall respond via separate correspondents to that in due course.”
At today’s House of Representatives meeting, Micheal Finnegan, Area Representative for Mesopotamia called out the People’s United Party and the Unions for not showing utmost support to the Stevedores.
The staff from the port are back to work since progress was made in the meeting last night. Negotiators first addressed matters relating to the Collective Bargaining Agreement for the Port staff. In that regard, the Port is to provide by April 3rd a counter-proposal to the CWU’s submission that will be followed by the start of negotiations within two weeks.