The Christian Workers Union has begun working on the first ever Collective Bargaining Agreement in eleven years on behalf of the members who provide stevedore service for the Port of Belize Ltd. In 2007 there was an attempt to conclude a CBA, however, when the Port of Belize changed management, the CBA in progress was never transferred over to the new management. President of the Christian Workers Union, Audrey Matura- Shepard explained the CBA the stevedores are proposing.
” Under proper industrial relations what any union representing workers should do is to try to have one document which is what we call the collective bargaining agreement. Under that one document what we seek to do is address some simple things as to what would be your work uniform if any or major things as to what happens in the event that you die on the job or when you retire. Unfortunately because the previous CBA that was under the port when it was owned by government, because that didn’t carry over to this present owners of the port the stevedores for eleven years have been left in limbo and a lot of people don’t understand that when the stevedores act up or they show their discontent some people have a negative reaction but they don’t understand that it is because after eleven years of not having something concrete that defines all your conditions of employment, simple things like if there is any misconduct on the job who is to deal with you, people losing their jobs at the whim and fancy of someone in management that cannot continue. So we thought that it was important to lay the background and to inform you all how far we are in trying to reach the negotiating table.”
Matura Shepherd says that they have received a counter proposal from Port of Belize but the counter proposal only included two memorandums of understanding, one frame work and two addendums to that framework agreement that was already in place. She also explained that negotiations are soon to be in effect and hopes the Port of Belize takes the CBA and stevedores matter seriously.
“Audrey Matura Shepherd: Yesterday we finally got their counter proposal they put in some key issues and now we’re setting a date for next week when we will meet and agree on the final points and after that we literally go into negotiating the CBA. I think we’ve come a long way. I know there were some stevedores who were upset because they thought we were too patient but I believe that we worked the process. The first step is not to go and break up everything the first step is to dialogue. You don’t reach the point of having to strike which is the extreme until all prospects have broken down. Yes the stevedores did a go slow day the other day and that was important because we could not get them to even acknowledge that we needed to meet and so we’ve met but we are hoping that in good faith that the stevedores do not have to every minute do an action to get their reaction. We are hoping that there is genuine negotiation around the table and that negotiations will not break down and that port will understand the value of the stevedores.”
Dion Pitter, one of the stevedores who is head of the negotiation team told the media they will fight until they get what they want, especially life insurance due to the nature of their jobs as well as the hours of their job.
” We have never created a CBA. The understanding I got of a CBA is that it will be the bible or dictionary between the company and the stevedores, that is not the labor law that will be our law. Under the new leadership with Ms. Matura we sat down and we created a CBA and we feel good to have created a CBA because in a CBA has our hours of work, grievance, retirement, pension everything. Now that is a joy for us to have that and most organizations out there have a CBA and so we will stand to the end to create a CBA and that will be what will govern us and the port, we are going to stand up and fight for our union especially for insurance because when we leave from our homes at 11pm and ride to Port anything can happen to us. We don’t want an insurance that is incomplete, we want a general insurance that will cover us from home to work and work to home. Our work is risky, our work is part of the economy of this whole country. We bring in your food, clothes everything. You have to understand where we are, we really need our CBA, if we even have to go to the point to shut down the work so that Port can come to the table and create a CBA between us and them we will do it.”