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Will the stevedores go on strike? That’s seems to be the direction the Christian Workers Union (CWU) is heading as it is planning to call 150 of its members to Industrial Action. The CWU, on behalf of the negotiating Team representing the Stevedores, sent a letter to the Minister of Labour, the CEO of Port of Belize Limited, and the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, on 28th September informing them of the decision that can take place following its twenty-one days notice period. This is because the Port of Belize Limited (PBL) and the CWU reached an impasse at a scheduled meeting last week Wednesday. The impasse was declared by the PBL over six years of negotiation for a Collective Agreement to cover Stevedores.

Arturo Vasquez, President of the Port of Belize says the impasse is over working hours that’s currently outside the law.

Arturo Vasquez President Port of Belize: “This time around when we decided that we would continuing negotiations we picked up on the working hours which is something that has been sitting there for a long time, has been ignored, has been put aside simply because the stevadors in my opinion refuse to change the way they work and the problem right now is the way the working hours are, its outside the law. The law requires that you have at least nine hours rest , that’s not happening right now so what we have recommended is a shift system of how it would work. We did the recommendation on a spreadsheet where we provided all the the details of an existing way they work and how we propose they work including the financials to show that there is no loss to anybody. The difference you have here is that you would have instead of one gang doing one ship you would have two gangs doing one ship you understand me. Your rotation also comes around more often  because you will be rotating more often, right now you don’t rotate as often. The matter of safety is also an issue. Sometimes you work on a shift for thirty to forty hours without any rest so the fact is that we are outside the law. We have had about three meetings with this new leadership talking about the working hours during those meetings we have provided this proposal to them. We went to an impasse last week because if we provide you with a proposal you should have a counter proposal so if I am saying this is the week we will do this shift and I don’t like that shift let’s try this shift, that is not the situation. The situation is that the stevedores have said we will not change anything at all;that’s not negotiating.

Jose Sanchez: “ How many hours are they doing?

Arturo Vasquez President Port of Belize:  “It depends, one of the small ships could be twelve hours, another ship could be twenty – twenty two hours, the bigger ships could be up to maximum of between forty to fifty hours so currently you can have a gang working a ship for fifty hours non stop, right through. Obviously they take their rest, they go to sleep. There is a lot of things that happen out there that now the shipping lines are becoming aware of. They have been bringing it to our attention and now they are bringing it to our attention more and more. They are saying, listen we are concerned about the safety of this thing now but while we are pushing from a legal point of view they are talking about a safety point of view, we have made all this known to the Union from the beginning.

Vasquez says in a rotation, all the work gangs would benefit since more gangs would work on a ship at the Port. However, In the letter sent to Prime Minister Dean Barrow in his capacity as Minister of Labour, the CWU states QUOTE “we reached this juncture because PBL adamantly refused to discuss any other matter after the negotiating team rejected PBL’s hours of work proposal. This refusal to engage on any other matter that remains on the agreed list is no less than extreme bad faith.” UNQUOTE. This afternoon Love news spoke to CWU President Mose Hyde about the steps moving forward.