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Feb 23, 2015

Sugar Barge Workers Protest Over “Shilling” Water

Today, thirty-four stevedores working with the Port of Belize refused to board the boat which would take them out to offload the sugar barge, anchored seven miles out. They have a gripe, and on the face of it, it’s a simple one – as simple as H-two-O. Stevedores are traditionally given the popular shilling bags of water when they offload the ships, but they want water in five gallon containers. And they’re serious about it. This morning they told us that they’ve gotten sick drinking the water in plastic bags, which they say are stored in hot warehouses for long periods of time. We got both sides of the story this morning.

 

Raymond Rivers

Raymond Rivers, Stevedore

“Many of the stevedores deh complain that the water di get them sick. So we compromised with Port for the first sugar boat weh come last week—ih done load eight thousand tons of sugar and gone. And we say, PBL Management, mek we start the sugar season—no problem—but please fix the water and please try get an emergency boat that is docked beside the ship twenty-four hours just should incase any stevedore gets hurt, dehn could race them in to the hospital. Nothing like that get done, the water noh change. I talked to Tux Vasquez this morning from the receivership of PBL and he told me that he won’t change the water for nothing. So I explained to him say your son the drink this water and somebody di give him this, you still wah tell ahn drink it? He say yes. Unu take the pouch water and unu goh dah work. But on days like this weh ih so hot, dehn only give yo eight water, plus most of them spoil, dehn taste awful, dehn have people sick out there. So we di tell the man give we di five gallon of water that we usually does get. But his concern is that dehn thief the five gallon.”

 

Arturo Vasquez, Executive Director, PBL

“We don’t store pouches. The water deliveries are done about every day or every other day. I don’t know how to prove that to them but we don’t store pouches. You purchase the bags and you purchase them as you need them. We have gangs going out twice a day and there is enough people, enough bags as the water companies deliver our bottles, they deliver the pouches. So if they store it, I don’t think it could be anything longer than a day, even if that is the case. But the demand is so much that we are definitely not storing pouches; that is for sure.”

 

Arturo Vasquez

Mike Rudon

“Is this an issue which has come to your attention before or is this something that is catching you by surprise?”

 

Arturo Vasquez

“It is absolutely by surprise this morning that I heard this. I certainly don’t think that it is necessary to go back to the bottles because we will just end up with the same problem again. These people are being provided with the water that they need; it is just the type of provision that we are given them is apparently what they have decided—or at least this gang this morning is saying—that they no longer want to have.”

 

Raymond Rivers

“Thirty-four man this morning opposed going on the vessel to go on the sugar ship. So that is what is happening right now. The sugar is the concern and it can be fixed so easily, but educated people in this country make everything so difficult and sophisticated. What is it to give stevedores seven-five gallons of water and make us work?”

 

Mike Rudon

“So right now at this point, nobody di work the sugar ship?”

 

Raymond River

“Nobody, but two o’clock we schedule to come out here again, the whole thirty-four man and we wah do this again. So if Mister Tux noh want break, we noh di break because this dah wah health reason and we di look fi call in the Minister of Health and certain people from the water place and get these water tested.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “Sugar Barge Workers Protest Over “Shilling” Water”

  1. Teddy Steinway says:

    This issue like so many others in BeliZe is a result of poor management.

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