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Sep 9, 2015

PBL and CWU Agree To Start CBA Negotiations

This morning, stevedores protested outside the Port of Belize compound, again. This time it wasn’t about the quality of water served to gangs offloading sugar barges. It’s about more than that – the entire Collective Bargaining Agreement, in fact. The negotiation and signing off on that agreement has been stalled for more than a year. Stevedores milled around outside, while inside, CWU president, Audrey Matura-Shepherd and representatives met with Port of Belize officials to find a way forward. Mike Rudon was there and has the story.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

This morning stevedore work on the sugar barge moored seven miles off Belize City was at a standstill. That’s because Port of Belize Ltd. shut down all activity, effective at the end of Tuesday’s shift.


Arturo Vasquez

Arturo Vasquez, Receiver C.E.O., Port of Belize Ltd.

“Yesterday we realized that there was a little bit of delay on the productivity on the sugar barge and we had no idea why. That was the case; no reason why. So we wrote them a letter yesterday to tell them that we have noticed that the productivity is down and that we will have to, if they can advice us what the reasons are, and that we will have to be paying based on production. We got no response to that. Last night, there was an attempt by the container barge to strike, I would imagine in solidarity, and after speaking to them, I think they realized it is best they continued to work because they weren’t too straight as to what the situation was. I had no answers to my letter, no phone call, nothing at all. And then…so we decided along with B.S.I. to close operation at the sugar barge.”


Today those stevedores are standing firm behind the decision to go slow…a decision they say was not only necessary, but was approved by their union president Audrey Matura-Shepherd.


Jermaine Arnold

Jermaine Arnold, Stevedore

“We just gawn to she and ask her if that okay and she said no problem, I deh with unu wah hundred percent. We don’t need to notify them. So when they see weh di go on and hear weh di go on, they get pissed off about it and the next agent called them weh own the sugar and the container and di complain. And asked what is the problem because dah cause ah unu; unu noh even try meet with the them or whatever to negotiate. So this dah weh we stand right now.”


James Neal, Stevedore

“Why we gawn pon go slow is because we need to get our CBA signed because for over five months as far as I know, the union try to send letters to meet with the Port concerning we start negotiate. Port says that dehn noh get nothing from the union and that dah lie. The union got proof that dehn send letters to them and we mi done further put ah notice to them if dehn noh confirm back to the union concerning for us to restart negotiate.”


James Neal

That collective bargaining agreement has been long delayed – whose fault that is, depends on whether you ask the Port or the CWU. But it’s come to the point where the stevedores want it done, and want it done now.


Jermaine Arnold

“We need that because dat da wah big thing. Ih only sound like wah small thing but a lot of thing deh behind it. we deh yah fi eleven years with den people yah. When we used to work with the agents solely, we used to get raise of pay every three years. Next year will be twelve years; that’s four raise of pay we miss and dehn still wahn tell we that dehn need to downsize on the gang and all of that. we done lost so much and dehn still want we give up more and dehn noh wah give we nothing. So we say we get enough of that now and we will deal with this today and from now go back until ih come the right way.”


Elstwin Willoughby

Elstwin Willoughby, Stevedore

“We just hafto stay strong; all stevedores have to come together now and make we put down wih foot and make we take drastic measures because this is a serious thing. We need the CBA signed so that everything could go smooth.”


At around eleven President of the Christian Workers Union Audrey Matura, along with stevedore executive members, concluded her meeting with Port of Belize representatives, and emerged with this positive message.


Audrey Matura-Shepherd, President, Christian Workers Union

“We have very good news fi unu. Excellent news…we get the two things we ask for. Stevedores will be padi their full salary for the sugar barge today; no salary cut out. that dah one. Two, we agreed that un gwen back dah work two o’clock; that dah number six because they desperately need to get this sugar out. So in return for unu to agree to give back unu labor, dehn agree to give full salary. I think that is a good deal and unu wah obey the rules. The next good news is that we have set a day to start the negotiations. It is Friday, next week Friday, the eighteenth of September.”


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Mike Rudon

“Throughout the past months, whenever you talk to the Port, the Port says we have been trying to negotiate this thing, but the union noh di approach wi. Yo talk to the union, the union says we are trying to negotiate this thing, but the Port…”


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“That is not true, we have all the letters, but we will move ahead. What Mister Tux and I agreed on just now is let us not fight over the semantics; let us find a way forward and on that good fate we are prepared to move forward. We have sent our proposal to them, they have not counter-proposed. But like we agreed just now, everything is on the table. What is important is for us to start talking and I am sure we want the same thing. We want to make sure that there is productivity and productivity on both sides.”


The Port of Belize is, like Matura-Shepherd said, ready to leave the past in the past and move forward with the Collective Bargaining Agreement as a priority.


Arturo Vasquez

“First of all we had a full year delayed since the leadership changed. To be honest the CWU has not anytime for the board for twelve months and there is proof to that. For twelve months we have never heard from anybody. After that time, we have been talking and what they did is that they presented us with a CBA that we started back in 2012. We have made progress on that CBA since then. We have implemented certain things; we have signed MOUs to say that as we agree on certain things we will implement them. So we have been discussing. They are saying we want to start with this document and we are saying you can’t start with that document; you need to start from where we left off. That has been the delay. Now, as I said, we have agreed to the eighteenth to put that on the table and decide how do we start.”


It starts, at least for now, with the stevedores returning to work at two this afternoon in good faith. From there it is up to the Port of Belize and the CWU to do the rest. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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1 Response for “PBL and CWU Agree To Start CBA Negotiations”

  1. dean dog barrow says:

    It’s the fault of the barking dog dean dog barrow, that our country is missed up.

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