Christian Workers Union Accuses Government of Being Sinister in Negotiations

Christian Workers Union Accuses Government of Being Sinister in Negotiations

The Christian Workers Union (CWU) says the Government of Belize is being sinister in its negotiations and that it’s trying to trick the seafront workers. Today, the CWU held a press conference to discuss the ongoing talks to settle its redundancy payment from the loss of sugar ships. The union was initially seeking 4.8 million dollars but says they were willing to accept a counterproposal of 1.5 million dollars from the government. However, the union believes that certain conditions in the agreement will negate stipulations set out in its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Port of Belize Limited. The CWU’s President, Leonora Flowers, says the union is unwilling to discuss the renewal of the CBA, which expired last October, until they have reached an agreement on the redundancy payment. She explained that one of the points of contention is the number of workers included in a gang and how it will affect the seafront workers.

Leonora Flowers, President CWU: “I need to say this to the Belizean people because sometimes I use the word hoodwinked and when you’re dealing with professionals we should not think that the other side wants to hoodwink us, but that’s how we feel. We were being asked to reduce the gang from fourteen to thirteen members. When we sat in this same room the stevedores said but we have gangs that have seventeen members so what happened then ? The Port of Belize tried to do that. So if we can’t sit at a table and dialogue with you and negotiate with you in good faith. If we feel that we’re being taken advantage of it is time to call a halt and that is what we have done. We are preparing and we’ve said this to the government we are prepared to discuss the sugar money, the redundancy package by itself. They have offered to give the stevedores their pension monies, they have done that before and we all know that pension is pension it should remain until you reach pensionable age whether it be fifty five or whether it be sixty. They have moved on the pension money for these gentlemen more than once. We have to put a halt to that. So the team have discussed and said we don’t want our pension, do not touch our pension money leave it where it is we will not take it now we’re not making any agreement to take our pension and then to give us some money for sugar and we take away one man and we sign off other things outside of the CBA. To say how egregious the attempt on the offer was within this document that we were presented to sign, and yes they’ll say our attorney drafted it but their attorney edited along the way, one of their edited versions final edited versions said that what is in this settlement will override – for the Belizean public I’m saying to you our largest employer in this country is the Government of Belize and the Government of Belize is the largest stakeholder in the Port of Belize. So this offer came from the Government of Belize, they can say otherwise. It came from the Government of Belize to say they will override whatever exists in our CBA. I have never seen override in a document that offended me so much and it offended our team.”

Flowers added that while they are willing to compromise, the union is focused on keeping its CBA out of the negotiations. 

Leonora Flowers, President CWU: “So they asked us to remove a member from that gang and bring it down to thirteen. We initially started that discussion but to do so we had to recognize that there are other gangs that we were not approaching and so we said to the attorney you know we’ll have to put container gang to be specific. That for them was omitted. When we got back the document they moved it. So if you can read and you can understand by a slight of hand they want to put gang to mean all the different gangs, generalize it -“

Reporter: Generalize it and therefore removing about what ? 

Leonora Flowers, President CWU: “Bring it down to thirteen so we’d remove four from a container gang that conventional gang that has seventeen members. We have said to them we haven’t heard from them since yesterday but we’re saying to the Belizean people this is where we are. Many times we don’t say and people think we’re being unreasonable so for that purpose we’re here today to show that we are prepared to commence the negotiation even if they say leave the sugar money let us commence the negotiation with the CBA.”

The union says it will be meeting at the end of this week to discuss a way forward if they are unable to sign an agreement tomorrow.

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