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Dec 7, 2015

Stevedores Set Off Impromptu Strike Action at Port of Belize

The stevedores are once again on strike. This morning around eleven o’clock, Gang Seven staged a protest at the Port of Belize which disrupted operations and threatens the unloading of a shipment of Christmas goods from Miami, Florida. On December third, a the Christian Workers Union and the Port met for negotiations on the Collective Bargaining Agreement and on the discussion table was the issue of pension and retirement benefits. But the stevedores are not in agreement with the offer from the Port. We spoke to CWU President Audrey Matura-Shepherd and the head of Gang Seven, Guy Neal, who is also a member of the negotiating team about today’s impromptu industrial action.

 

Guy Neal

Guy Neal, Stevedore

“We decided to take industrial action because apparently, concerning our retirement funds that we did prior before that and now he is telling us that we didn’t say certain things. How come we could have led the stevedores to what he said and now we back track? It is very important because it is our retroactive and our retirement. So this is our present and our future and now he is saying that he don’t say certain things. So we decided to take a stand.”

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, President, CWU

“What it has shown to us is that we are negotiating with people we can’t trust so we have to record everything in detail. We came here in good faith and what we realize is that that day, the Port would have said anything to get these guys back to work. I come in and I am trying to change the culture with the stevedores and the establishment and I realize that I am fighting against a current where there has been such grave distress and I am experiencing it personally…where I was in a meeting and it was clear cut what was agreed and because we hadn’t written down everything in details, he wants to backtrack. I mean he had to expect this.”

 

Arturo “Tux” Vasquez

Arturo “Tux” Vasquez, C.E.O./Receivership, Port of Belize

“We have been having our negotiations as scheduled. The last one we had was on the third and in that negotiation, they left with some information, but I expected that they would have come back to say whether it was in favor or not. I was surprised at eleven o’clock this morning to understand that this gang was on strike. I have to assume what the reasons are, but I should not be assuming in the middle of negotiations.”

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“There is absolutely no way; you wah make sense out of nonsense…absolutely no way those stevedores would have agreed to anything that wasn’t retroactive. You mean you waited for eleven years to try and resolve an issue and then you wah say, “forget dehn eleven years; we will start from this point forward…for one of the most critical benefit, your pension?” Come on, let’s make sense out of nonsense.”

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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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