PBL says the CWU did not act in good faith
While the CWU hopes for the trial to be struck down, the PBL wants to take the battle to court. The PBL claims that the union’s strike was unlawful because, at that time, the Minister of Labor referred the dispute to the Essential Services Tribunal. The PBL argues that the union acted in bad faith when it chose to engage in industrial action despite the tribunal’s ruling. The company’s attorney, Hector Guerra, explained that while the members are guaranteed immunity, there are stipulations under which that benefit may be negated.
Hector Guerra, Attorney for PBL: “Our fundamental position is this it’s that it’s fine if you want to engage in industrial action and indeed you enjoy statutory immunities but only if you follow and you tick off the requirements which the law provides which is that you would have given the minister a letter, a notice saying minister these are our disputes and only if the minister doesn’t refer that dispute to the tribunal then in that case you can engage in a strike and if you do you enjoy the statutory immunity. It is in fact a legal argument but some of the very same pieces of evidence that are being relied upon by the Christian Workers Union and which has been put forward before the court in the witness statement of none other than Mr. Mose Hyde actually goes against the very thing that the union is trying to use to its advantage. So there would have been evidence for example of a notice of reference in which the minister referred the issue to the tribunal. There would have been evidence of a decision that was rendered by the tribunal in the favor of the CWU and so we this morning pointed this out to the court. It’s not disputed by any of the sides and we were saying hey court in fact these pieces of evidence which are crucial to your deliberation in terms of this very preliminary point was tendered in by the defendants. So it’s really we are looking at it as a whole and you have to look at the events as they transpired at the time.”
The PBL claims that the CWU was not registered under the previous Trade Union Act but the Trade Union and Employer Organizations Act, an amended legislation. Guerra says that because the union was registered under the latter act, its members can be held liable for damages incurred during instances of industrial action.
Hector Guerra, Attorney for PBL: “We’re telling the court that we don’t think you even have to go that far if one looks at the pleadings that are before the court, if one looks at the arguments that they are making, the papers that they’ve filed they have in fact conceded that they’ve registered under the latter act which is the trade union and employers organization act and because they registered under that act the provisions that deal with immunities from that act are which are to be considered by the court at this juncture. That is really the nub, the essence of our argument. We are saying CWU and members you didn’t follow the requirements that the law prescribes in terms of engaging in a lawful and I stress lawful strike as a result you are not entitled to the statutory immunities and because you’re not entitled to the statutory in a lawful and I stress lawful strike as a result you are not entitled to the statutory immunities and because you’re not entitled to the statutory immunities you’re liable for the losses which our clients would have suffered as a result of the illegal strike. Remember now the evidence that will unfold before the court would have shown that not one but two attorneys have an in fact written to the CWU explaining expressly that the industrial action that they were going to engage in was illegal. Not only did the attorneys write to the CWU but PBL in fact initiated that, one of their officers informed them and to compound the matters at the time the Belize Chamber of Commerce had in fact issued a press release detailing the losses that many of the port’s customers were suffering as a result of the illegal strike. So yes it is our claim that any losses that PBL would have suffered is in fact as a direct result of the unlawful strike and for which the CWU and its members should be held accountable for.”
Notably, Guerra stated that the PBL has reduced the figure it’s seeking in special damages. Initially, the company stated that the loss was around 1.5 million but now says that figure is an estimated $390,000.