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CWU Serves GOB with Twenty-One Day Strike Notice

In other news this evening: President of the Christian Workers Union, Evan “Mose” Hyde has served notice to the government of the CWU’s decision to invoke the twenty-one days’ notice to institute industrial action against the Port of Belize Limited, PBL. In response, the Labour Commissioner met with the parties to develop a protocol on how the talks will proceed. The first meeting was held on Tuesday. Stevedores who are members of the CWU are upset that ASR/BSI has decided to move its operations to the Big Creek Port. Hyde says this goes against a MOU signed in 2006 between the government and Banana Enterprises Limited.

Evan “Mose” Hyde, President, CWU: “We don’t even know what is the position for the dismissal of the MOU, we just know that that has happened and that’s rough because now we are in a position where yes we have to be responsible and discuss redundancy there’s been a refusal to engage on that but simultaneously we feel that the MOU should have rendered any redundancy conversation null and void because you cannot have a breach of your own agreement. Essentially what we have here is that the government as a shareholder of ASR is making a decision to breach an agreement that the government itself has signed to try to regulate between two ports of 2006 and I don’t know what legal opinion they have we know the one that we have so there’s just this feeling that we have to worry about Big Creek, we have to worry about ASR, the last one the list stevedores unu wah have to do without sugar.”

Reacting to this development was Prime Minister John Briceno. Briceno says his government is concerned but he says that both parties must come together to solve their differences.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “It’s a matter between the CWU and the Port of Belize have to sit down and negotiate in good faith. We urged the Port of Belize last week we sent an email to Port of Belize urging them to meet with the CWU to discuss the outstanding issues with the stevedores. In March of last year they had an agreement of where they agreed that they’re going to sit down and negotiate on the redundancy for sugar, in effect Port of Belize, CWU and the stevedores had already accepted in signing that agreement that a part of the sugar, not all, a part of the sugar is going to be moved down south because it’s way too expensive to ship through the Port of Belize. Port of Belize have done next to zero investments in improving their facilities and so now BSI and the cane farmers have to find a better way to ship. So we’re saying to go back to that agreement that they signed in March of 2020 and to continue the negotiations for a settlement on the redundancy because of sugar. They were to sign also another agreement for the employees for the Port of Belize they were to look at the issue of the standby stevedores that they should become formalized as part of the gangs that they have and the last one was to again reconstitute the stevedore gangs that they use. So we urged them that they should sit down to meet in good faith and to find a definitive agreement on what they said they were going to do last year.”

Prime Minister Briceno says the parties must realize that there is competition.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “Our hands are tied. Our options are limited in effect because we have to respect the unions. I mean the unions have a right but at the same time we ask them to be more reasonable and we do the same thing from Port of Belize. But what also now they need to understand, the stevedores and the Port of Belize now, that there is competition and that if there’s this uncertainty if your container is going to be unloaded from the ship and loaded into a ship I think people are going to look for other options and now we have another option. The port in the south they have invested heavily and so it is so much more easier to be able to do business that way even though it is farther. So I am urging both sides to be able to sit down and to find a way where they can come up with an agreement where it is in everyone’s interest and that we can find an amicable and reasonable solution for both sides.”