Christian Workers Union and The Port Authority have signed, a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that was negotiated for five weeks. The CBA benefits the 48 staff members of the Port of Belize union and non union members. Port Commissioner Merlene Bailey Martinez commented on the main benefits the employees will gain.
MERLENE BAILEY MARTINEZ
“The main issue is the salary increase will take the employees an increase of 12% over the next four years. There are some other allowances that were increased and allowances that were introduced for the first time so those are the main issues related to the CBA. The CBA does cover just the union members but our board and management have decided that it will go across the board to all our staff irrespective of whether or not they are union members. The workers are fully aware and we don’t think their demands were excessive, we thought that most of it was reasonable. They understood the constraints that we operate under and they were willing to negotiate. On the other hand the board and management were also, we have developed a good relationship with our staff so we believe that they are aware that we are interested in their welfare.”
Edmond Stein, Chief Union Representative commented that the CBA was mostly drafted by the workers who negotiated step by step with the management along with the CWU.
MERLENE BAILEY MARTINEZ
“In October last year they came up with three things that they really wanted, that they saw important for them to have as benefits, as employees of Belize Port Authority and we put up a proposal of management to say that we wanted a pension scheme, a salary increase, insurances for all the people that go out to see and while the insurance is difficult for us to get because of the coverage we must say that it was a very good process starting from then until now. We’ve gave them a proposal and they gave us a counter proposal that we could have met at the middle, we met on weekends to draft this thing up and I must say that the employees of Belize Port Authority they must be applauded for the level of work that they put in and I can say on behalf of the membership that they are very appreciative of the way the management took this CBA with they actually came inviting and very giving to us.”
Although the CBA was negotiated in only five weeks, it had been at a standstill for seven years. For president of the Christian Workers Union, Audrey Matura, it was an easy negotiation compared to other units that the CWU is negotiating with. Matura spoke about how the parties came to the table to negotiate the CBA.
“Indeed it has been one of the shortest negotiation but we have to put things into perspective. It took seven years to start over, of course Port had new management and so did CWU. Our union members previously had told us is that one of the setbacks was that there was a lot of union busting before and CWU had it’s own uproars and so we couldn’t get to the table but moving beyond that point what happened last year the workers, I must give them full congratulations on their effort, they actually came together, wrote and reviewed this CBA on their own, we only had to vett it at the headquarters, approve it and they went into full negotiations with it and so it was one of the speediest most civil and professional negotiations we’ve been involved in and it only took a period of five weeks and they met once a week. We wish other units would see it this way, we sent our CBA and they reviewed it so it wasn’t any surprise.”
The CBA gives Port staff a twelve percent salary increase retroactive to April 1, 2016. The Port of Belize is expending approximately two hundred thousand dollars to increase the salaries of the Port Staff. Bailey Martinez stated that while the Port can afford the salary increase for the next four years, the viability to maintain it after the four years depends on the Port revenues. The CWU also signed a CBA with the employees and administration of Central Bank this evening as well.