Christian Workers Union Seeks $4.9 Million Redundancy Package from GOB for wages lost
The Christian Workers Union says it welcomes the Port of Belize’s nationalization but wants a 4.9-million-dollar redundancy package from the new owners, GOB, for wages lost in the move of bulk sugar south. In 2021, the union took the matter before the Essential Services Arbitration Tribunal, which ruled in their favor and awarded compensation from the PBL. However, the Ashcroft Alliance, the previous owners, had refused to pay the union. In 2022, after still no payment, the union went on strike, which led to GOB making an ex-gratia payment of 1.5 million dollars for damages suffered due to the port’s privatization. But before the stevedores could collect all their funds, the Ashcroft Alliance filed an injunction at the courts and froze the remaining four hundred thousand plus dollars. And while those funds are now unfrozen, CWU’s President Leonora Flowers says the union is now back to focusing on the bigger picture of getting compensated for the move of sugar to the Big Creek Port.
Leonora Flowers, President, Christian Workers Union: “The acquisition was not a CWU ask but we welcome that the government decided to do what they did. As we have said this Ashcroft and Belize relations is a self inflicted one by the Government of Belize, both governments from time to time and we recognize that. And the people who have suffered the most are the workers, the stevedores, our members. Today we are here to say we are focused 100% on ensuring that our members, our stevedores get what is rightly theirs. Government at the moment all the releases are saying that the stevedores are going to get the $473,000 that sits under the injunction that’s welcoming for those stevedores who have not been paid based on the March 6 agreement but that is nothing to play with because that is not the sugar money that we’ve been discussing over the years and that is what we want to bring 100% focus on. Sugar money is outstanding, the cases in the court the government has said that they will take those over and we have the ESAT which we had just gotten the response from on Friday last December 8.”
Guy Neal, senior CWU member, says the stevedores are calling on the government to meet with the CWU negotiating team. He says that the ex-gratia payment was of the government’s own doing and should not be lumped with the monies owed for the loss of sugar ships.
Guy Neal, Member, Christian Workers Union: “This same thing started from 2004 and it comes right just all over that time we’ve been taking licking an it came right back to the said government who started it. They need to finish the job right not finish it bad. They’re doing everything, they negotiate 2004 without the stevedores under the then Said Musa. We had to run to Belmopan because they wanted to take us without a union. We had a big stampede if you all could remember, fighting for our rights. And the same thing came back to haunt them. So Prime Minister you need to get it right. You were the Deputy Prime Minister at the time. We are a black people on the south side and we have a lot of strength so you need to get it right. That four hundred thousand has nothing to do with the price of rice. We want, we want redundancy in sugar that leaves us. I alone lost $17,000 on my salary so you need to get it right. You need to come to the table because it is not done here so you need to come to the table.”
The union is also demanding that GOB compensate thirty-five members who were laid off from the port in 2021.