Port and stevedores at impasse, 200 containers left waiting
Tonight, there are 200 containers at the Port of Belize, waiting to be unloaded; but they may have to wait a bit longer as the port and the stevedores are currently at an impasse. By all accounts, it seems to be a situation of miscommunication and anger all mixed into one. Apparently, there was an agreement between the port and the stevedores that contrary to what the Collective Bargaining Agreement says, they would be using two gangs to man one ship, which would save on time and money in getting the goods unloaded. Recently, however, the Christian Workers Union (CWU), that represents the stevedores, has indicated that they will be going back to the bargaining agreement where it calls for one gang to one ship. The port says the union is reneging on their agreement, but the union says they are doing this because the Port has failed to honor the order from the Essential Services Arbitration Tribunal to negotiate a settlement with the union. Up to news time tonight, both sides are refusing to go back to the table. According to the CWU President, Evan Mose Hyde, he is surprised that the government or the Ministry of Labor have not yet intervened.
Mose Hyde, CWU President: “What we want the public to understand after checking the news and seeing the release from PBL is to give them the accurate reality of what’s happening at the water front. What has happened is that PBL has locked out our gangs from doing its work according to the contract that we have with them. Our gang, Gang 5, has been stationed outside of port ready to do work from yesterday morning. They were there last night, they were there and are probably still there this morning ready to do the work of unloading the ship that is in port. The PBL has refused them and in our view it’s an illegal refusal. It’s illegal. It compromises, it breaches our contract and it breaches the Essential Services Act and in our view why we have now decided to come public is that we are at a loss as to how come we have not had any intervention of any sort from the Ministry of Labour and the Government of Belize. We have been categorized an essential service. In times past when it is stevedores who are responsible for the shut down of business at the water front everybody all hands on deck. We are being bombarded from calls what are we doing ? We’re interrupting the flow of business, services, commodities, etc. The people at the Ministry of Labour and the Government of Belize are aware of every detail of this contention from the time it started, they know everything. They’ve seen the exchange of the correspondences they have yet to weigh in and so what has happened is that not only our members are being deprived of their rightful legal opportunity to earn a living and the nation of Belize being deprived of the flow of goods but what is happening is that we are being deprived of any sort of intervention coming from the state that is usually present whenever we have any type of disturbance. It’s as if though the referee has left the game. It’s as if though okay you all are on your own. And so we are seeking and appealing and in fact demanding that the day doesn’t go by without the Ministry of Labour waking up and stepping up and coming on the job.”
Hyde went on to indicate that the delay in unloading the containers is no way the fault of the union or the stevedores. He goes further by making reference to signed documents with the Port of Belize.
Mose Hyde, CWU President: “You go to the port right now Gang 5 is there lined up to work and we want the agent, we want the public to know. Stevedores have nothing to do with the shut down of the work on the water front. The genesis of this shut down is management and what appears to be an ownership receivership/ownership everything that they want to be at any given point in time have decided that they will now allow our gangs to work because they are unhappy with a decision, a legal decision, a constitutional right that they have to make a decision that is within the confines and boundaries of the signed agreement that we have with Port of Belize signed onto by the Ministry of Labour. They have a copy of our contract and they were a signee to that contract and they were a neutral observer to the negotiations that led to the contract. The Ministry of Labour is completely in the light of every aspect of this situation and yet they remain silent, yet they remain on the sidelines in fact I don’t know if there is anybody there. So we are appealing that every hour that goes by our members are being denied the ability to earn a living. Remember now stevedores don’t work your regular 9-5 so they schedule their lives according to when their shift is going to come up for them to work. So you have about maybe half of a gang that maybe have alternative occupation, have things on the side. They put those things on park so they can be available to work the ships. They have had it on park since yesterday morning and have not been allowed to work. This is an illegal lockout of our members, it’s a breach of our contract and it’s a breach of the Essential Services Act.”
Speaking to the media on the impasse was the CEO of the Port of Belize Limited, Ted Peralta. According to Peralta, they remain open to discussions with the port, but that does not seem possible. What does seem possible at this hour, is that the ship can either return unloaded or travel south to Big Creek where stevedores await to get the job done.
Love News understands that with this ship alone, each stevedore is losing an estimated one thousand eight hundred dollars. Our newsroom will be seeking comment from the Ministry of Labour as a follow up.