For four days the Port of Belize Limited employees have been protesting during their lunch breaks against the implementation of a 10% pay cut. The protest began last week and according to the Chief Representative for the workers, Wayne Lambey, the PBL has declined to meet with the employees and the labor department. Lambey added that a meeting will be held tonight to discuss the way forward.
Wayne Labey, Chief Representative, Port of Belize Limited: “Presently PBL hasn’t spoken to us however they have done some real undermining, diabolic things to us and we believe that these will be corrected today. For example the contract workers that were on contract they have now moved the contract to put people now on staff. However from the understanding I got they are saying that those years that they had worked will now be null and void and they will start fresh at this location. And then to add a little more sauce to that we have a young man with us, Jeremy McLaughlin he was also on contract, he was involved in a road traffic accident in June 2019 and by returning to work this month he was terminated and they say that his contract expired. So can you imagine the management and all the others who sit in that office actually allowed such tragedy to take place to a man who was sick, who was fighting for his life finally recovered and the strange thing about it was that McLaughlin was given eight weeks light duties from the doctor Dr.Sosa but the port seems not to want to give him that leeway or that privilege to work eight weeks on light duties and so he was determined and that’s really sickening because our CBA, the labor act the labor rules state clearly that anybody who works for two consecutive six month contract should be considered a regular employed person and now PBL is saying that his contract expired on his sickbed and terminated him? How worse can it get for us here at PBL. We had a meeting with the Labor Department CWU, the Labor Department had a meeting with PBL and in that letter PBL responded to the Labor Department that they were not willing to meet with Labor or with CWU at this time. So can you imagine an employer is telling the Labor Department that they are not willing to negotiate with CWU a bargaining union they had signed a contract with to have a conversation to settle all of this atrocity we are going through?
The employees at the Port of Belize Limited are being backed by the Christian Workers Union (CWU). CWU’s President, Evan Mose Hyde pointed out today that there has been an impasse from the start; a situation that is not surprising to him. According to Hyde, at this juncture there are many options that the union can take moving forward.
Evan Mose Hyde, President, Christian Workers Union: “We have options and these are going to be decided upon later today.”
Reporter: So by tomorrow you can expect escalation.
Evan Mose Hyde, President, Christian Workers Union: “No I think by tomorrow we will have clearly agreed as to what we will do going forward. I don’t know what it will be but I know that as a body we’re going to decide that.”
Reporter: And then what is the position of the stevedores, I know you talked about it last week about them supporting to the PBL employees; where are they now ?
Evan Mose Hyde, President, Christian Workers Union: “Well they have been out here for multiple protests. They were here all days last week they were here so they are not only in spirit but in person they have been out here. I think the person in charge right now is Mr.Pablo Salinas so he is the person who is the point man for PBL receivership ?, ownership ?, I cannot decide how this is going to be resolved. Obviously we hope to have the matter resolved through respectful dialogue, through a respectful relationship and guidance from our collective bargaining agreement which would simply mean that like other bodies have done you make full disclosure, act transparently, respectfully and we can find a way forward through this.”
While the Christian Workers Union has been supporting the PBL employees since the start of their plight, Hyde lashed out at the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) for lack of support. According to Hyde the NTUCB has yet to contact him or express any support for them or the employees.
Evan Mose Hyde, President, Christian Workers Union: “We have been engaged in these conflicts publicly now for weeks and the umbrella organization that CWU is a part of has not once even placed a phone call to us to inquire what’s going on. We have not received a text message from President Mora to say “What’s going on over there.” We’re not even taking it as far as to say some kind of solidarity you know we’re just saying kind of like it’s fair to expect at least curiosity from the leadership of the umbrella organization of labor. We’re saying here that we’re in a fight against a Goliath. We have put our case forward we believe rationally based on black and white and zero interest, zero interest. It’s incredible to me that we have to really question what the hell we are in the NTUCB for.”
Reporter: Because it’s supposed to be ‘Touch one touch all.’ kind of thing.
Evan Mose Hyde, President, Christian Workers Union: “Man, even if you’re not ready to do that at least see how much I’m hurting. I mean Rasta Fari to me it’s like naked indifference I can’t call it anything else. I know everybody is trying to paddle their own canoe and everything but we are in a situation where there is so much at stake and not a text message man? Cho man. I participated in a meeting where I was hoping to present a case and the talking was “Listen we are here to discuss this situation and that’s all we’re interested in.” I actually just quietly stepped out the zone.”
Love News reached out to the NTUCB President, Marvin Mora, who says he has expressed solidarity with the CWU. He notes that the executive will meet later this week and an official position will be announced. Meanwhile, our newsroom spoke with the President of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), Elena Smith. Smith expressed support for the CWU and added that they have always been in support of their sister union and their activities.
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “CWU and BNTU has a relationship, a sister sister relationship and so from time to time Brother Mose I would speak and he would share with us what is going on and we would offer support. The last time they had their issue at the port BNTU was there supporting them, we were out with them several days, our members went out shared with them in whatever way they could. We have not been active this time around as yet because we have raised the matter with the NTUCB, several members have raised the matter with the NTUCB and we’re waiting for the NTUCB to call a council meeting so that we can discuss that and other matters, other important issues that we are facing right now that we can make a determination as to how the NTUCB would move forward in providing support to the CWU but also to address the national issues that we have been raising with the NTUCB. So from our end individually we have not been doing anything but we are hoping and we have mentioned it to the NTUCB to see how and we’ve been told that there is going to be a meeting and we’re awaiting that meeting so that we can put our suggestions and our ideas together to give support to CWU. At the end of the day we’re all unions and when we are going through our struggles we expect that our brothers and sisters would be there to support us in whatever way they can and so when you’re standing out there without support of your other union colleagues it’s a burden to be fighting especially persons in power so when you have support whether it’s just that you show up and you talk with them or you just go and spend some time with them it is appreciated and so I understand what Brother Mose is going through and I’m hoping that we can quickly have the NTUCB meet and put something in place.”
According to Smith, a meeting will be held shortly with NTUCB to discuss this and other national issues. Meanwhile, the Port of Belize employees will continue to protest tomorrow.