Though progress has been had between Port of Belize Limited (PBL) and the Christian Workers Union(CWU) following a five-day strike, members of the Belize National Teacher’s Union and of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize and the Belize Peace movement showed up in full support for the CWU at the Port. Was it the call from Michael Finnegan at yesterday’s house meeting that prompted them to come or was it planned all along? Here is what the Presidents Marvin Mora and Elena Smith had to say.
Marvin Mora, President, National Trade Union Congress of Belize: “I want to encourage them to keep on the good fight, they are fighting for what is right and I believe that they should be listened to and they should be given a fair deal. Second I want to tell you yes indeed we are here it’s not only myself behind me there are several members of the General Congress and my executive body that are here with us today to show solidarity, to show support with the brothers because we believe that it is at times like these you need to see different faces especially for moral support.”
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers’ Union: “If it is that the stevedores feel that there is bad faith within the twenty one days then they have every right to do what they need to do because our employers and persons of in positions must understand that while we are employees we have rights as well and so it is not just that the employers get what they want all the time but they have to understand that without the employees they have nothing. If there are no stevedores what can they do ? How many millions can they make ? So there has to be that consciousness that without employees that the employees are their most valuable asset and they must treat them as such.”
The Port of Belize (PBL) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Christian Workers Union (CWU), on behalf of the Stevedores. The memorandum is one of the conditions that were outlined in the agreement drafted by the CWU. PBL’s CEO explained the other conditions in the MOU.
Arturo Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize: “There’s a couple of things, there’s the one with the Belize Sugar Industry moving, there is a 21 day requirement to put an MOU together to decide how you will approach it in addition to that there is an additional sixty days to do a complete as what it would be really if it should happen. There are two other dates I think with the staff collective bargaining agreement which has been in place since 2002 and they have requested us to do a review of it. They have submitted their draft to us, we have given them a deadline as to when we will give our counter proposal and there is also a date to say when we will sign a document to say how we will go through the negotiations, those are specific dates that we have put and those were the requirements by the staff – there is a separation between the staff and the stevedores.”
Reporter: So correct me if I’m wrong but all together in your opinion this will take more than two months to resolve?
Arturo Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize: “The negotiation of a CBA could take a while because you have to be back and forth. I will look at their proposal we do a counter proposal there may be things that we agree to things that we may not agree to that can take some time, hopefully not too long it just depends on how many chan- remember this is not a new CBA, this is an existing CBA with some new changes so that makes it a little bit easier but if it was a new one then maybe that perhaps would take a lot longer like the one with the stevedores that hasn’t really gone anywhere really.”
According to Evan Mose Hyde, the matter is still considered a crisis being unfolded.
Evan Mose Hyde, President, Christian Workers Union: “We can’t give any sense to them people out there whether they are businesses, shipping agents whoever they are, we can’t give them no sense that this situation has moved from crisis stage. This situation remains in crisis stage and we have to label it as that because these people who have been hounding for this situation to resolve must know that they can’t go quiet now, they can’t go into the dark and pretend as if though well if something goes wrong, if stevedores force because of the lack of cooperation over the next twenty days – because it’s now twenty days we sent in our letter to indicate that we would go on strike in twenty one days which means that we have lost a day. We are down now to twenty days, we need the stakeholders, we need everybody to understand do not think that stevedores are going around in circles. Who is going in circles? PBL might be going in circles but not stevedores, we have a straight line that we need to achieve that is we need to create a security package in the event which we believe to be highly likely to the point of we are almost certain it’s going to happen that is the movement of sugar to Big Creek.”
According to a press release from the Government press office, the Ministry of Labour confirmed that industrial action has come to an end and operations at the PBL have returned to normal as of 1 p.m. today.