The CWU understood that the 10 days added to their strike notice was within the powers of the Labour Minister, which allows both groups to return to the bargaining table to work on the framework for a collective bargaining agreement. However, the CWU President Mose Hyde said he felt insulted that the Port CEO, Arturo Vasquez had lobbied for the ten additional days and did not copy them into their correspondence to the Labour Minister.
Mose Hyde President CWU: “The Port of Belize negotiating team wrote a letter to the Minster this morning asking for the Minster to essentially rescind our 21 day notice and this is after the Minister had indicated that she has decided to put together the Tribunal and she has the power to extend our 21 days and so she has extended that ten more days and our legal advisor has told us that she has the power to do so. We disagree and we felt very insulted in fact that the Port would have written a letter to get the Minster to try to take away our 21 day notice without even copying us on that letter, without even addressing us and we asked on multiple times if we were going to negotiate and we were not responded to and so we felt that was definitely not a respectful position. The Minster was able to obviously get them to move from that position and we went back in and we have presented them a verbal description of our counter proposal on the matter of hours of work. It was sent to them during the lunchtime today so they have asked for more time to look at it so we are scheduled to meet on Tuesday morning about what they feel about our counter proposal. We will look at disciplinary, we will look at grievance mechanisms, we will try to resolve those because we want a collective bargaining agreement.”
So as you’ve heard one of the main areas that the CWU won’t back down is on the proposed reduction of the work gangs, since the gang size had already been reduced by one worker. The Port of Belize CEO told the media that there were discussions made with previous presidents when the topic was on the table. However, PBL said it wrote the Labour Minister for more time since it had only received the CWU’s counter proposal late Thursday afternoon, leaving the Port little time to review the document.
Arturo Vasquez: I though that once we had arrived at that compromise of saying that we will exchange counter proposals for the hours of work, I thought the 21 days came off but the Minister explained that she needs more time to perhaps if the possibility is to go to Tribunal then she also needs that time so that seems to be one of the reasons I understand why this may have been extended.There was an agreement signed June of 2017 where they were 4 points and they agreed to and that’s when the Stevedores got their increase in their pension. From 3% of regular salary to 4% of production bonus which actually multiplies the pension tenfold so what I am trying to explain to the Union is that one particular item that we would have discussed at further deduction came as a result of a complete joint agreement. It was negotiating “you get this and I get this” and that type of thing and this is something that would be implemented in 2020 but the point I make again is that we are at 2018 so it seems close but even actually we did that in June of 2017 so we are actually looking at almost three years to look at this thing so I think that because it’s a part of the original give and take negotiation I think that it should remain on the paper. He said to us he will only write to the Minster to tell her that there is a possibility that we are not agreeing to this and yes we dont agree to it. I do not believe it is not something that can just be taken off the table. It’s something that should remain there because again it was a discussion of give and take so thats my thing but I do appreciate the fact that Mr. Hyde was not around then so he may not fully understand the give and take that we did then. We move from 3% to 3 on production and then 4 on production there was quite a bit there.”
The Port of Belize and the Christian Workers Union will return to the Labour Department next week Tuesday morning to continue their negotiations.