CWU Accuses Port of Belize of Bad Faith in Stevedores’ Compensation Dispute
The Christian Workers Union (CWU) believes that its stevedores are being jilted and is sounding the alarm on what it says is bad faith by the Port of Belize Limited. Currently, the union and PBL are at an impasse over compensation for the move of sugar exports to the Big Creek Port. The CWU held a press conference this morning where they accused PBL of being disrespectful during negotiations for insurance coverage and indicated that the port is trying to force the union to discuss stipulations in its collecting bargaining agreement as it relates to working hours. CWU President, Leonora Flowers, says the port is not being reasonable and explained that the seafront workers are now discussing steps to resolve the problem.
Leonora Flowers, President, CWU: “We are with one provider. We have asked for the conversation to commence. In fact, the conversation had commenced. We were to move to a new provider giving better rates, of course with increased costs. Our stevedores had agreed to that. We will increase the cost. They’ll pay an increase but there will be better rates and better benefits to be had. That conversation was flowing nicely until we were told a couple weeks ago that the court will not be able to provide that insurance to go forward. That old insurance expired on Saturday, right? The new insurance should have commenced yesterday, the first of October. They told us on Friday, unfortunately they will not be able to go ahead with the new insurance unless and until the stevedores agree to new hours of work. Bear in mind that hours of work is covered in the current agreement. We have said to them time and time again, as a responsible union CWU cannot negotiate away terms in the collective agreement, the current one, without sitting down and properly negotiating those terms. The insurance is already a part of the CBA. The hours of work is already a part of the CBA. But they want to tell us now, we’ll only change insurance if you agree to new terms. As president of this union since May, I have said several times to the PBL and we’ve written to them, let us get to the collective agreement and at that time we will negotiate in total.”
As it relates to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), Flowers says that the PBL is yet to adhere to the decision of the Essential Services Arbitration Tribunal. Flowers explained that the union is to meet with the tribunal on Friday, but is calling on the government to do more to assist.
Leonora Flowers, President, CWU: “When the ESAT determined last in 2021 that they should pay the stevedores, that they should negotiate an award to the stevedores, even to date that has not been done. This is a total of 20 months and they have not adhered to that decision. Instead they said they did not understand it. There was no award, there is no loss, there is no loss of people, we have lost income on this side of the table. Our members had lost the opportunity to earn income when sugar went to Big Creek and that is what the ESAT decision said at that time. The port continues. We went back to the ESAT. There was an adjournment that should have, the decision should have come last Friday. It has been adjourned now to this Friday on the heels of that simultaneously with that bit of irritation that our members are feeling, we were then told another blow. We will not be able to continue with your insurance. unless and until you discuss hours of work. And we have our letters here that we’ve been sending to them under no uncertain terms we cannot and we will not because it is already in the CBA that you continue to provide insurance. And we have agreed, our members have agreed to the increased rates for better benefits. So we thought we were at one with that. We are not letting go of any option to resolve this issue. We’re not giving any ultimatum to the port. The port know where they stand. We know where we stand. We know what are our rights. So we will see what today brings. That decision was Friday, and we felt it fit to inform the nation. If at any time there is a stall in work at the port, we have to ensure that it is legally done. Our chief rep is here and that is all we are ensuring on this side. It will be legally done. But the port cannot continue to take us like somebody will say for Kunumunu, it’s enough, this is the heights of provocation. We will exercise every option available to us.”
The Union has also launched a dollar drive to help with legal fees as they anticipate a legal battle to ensue in the coming months with the Port of Belize Limited (PBL)