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Dec 8, 2015

Industrial Action Allegedly Caused By Discrepancy in Pension Plan

Arturo “Tux” Vasquez

Vasquez says that they have been having good negotiations with the CWU on the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but that the stevedores cannot hold the Port hostage when they disagree on a component of the CBA. The strike on Monday was a result of discrepancy on the amendment to a pension plan that is currently in place, says C.E.O. Vasquez. He maintains however, that for planned negotiations to continue, a strike cannot be in effect.


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

“I would think that people who are not familiar with the negotiations would think that there is nothing being paid right now. The public needs to know that there is a pension being paid. What we are negotiating is an increase to that pension. So anybody who retires right now is getting a pension. The Port is paying a pension. What has been negotiated since is to see if we can increase it. In any pension agreement, as you know, pension has contributions by both employee and employer. That was also discussed and that was what was agreed. So they are going from a three percent what they are getting now to a six percent, which means that we are doing four and they are now contributing two. As you know pension is something that builds over years, so what she said yesterday would sound – I think she said making sense out of nonsense, I think—but it has to be clear that there is a pension now in place what we negotiated is an increase to that pension. What happen now is that people are being paid a pension. Anybody who retired now is being paid a pension. That pension has been in place. As a matter of fact, before they came over to the Port of Belize, all stevedores were paid off. So there was also a pension paid to them before they came over. So 2004 going forward, there was a pension of three percent being paid and is being paid. The negotiation was let’s try to make hat better. We have no bad faith in this. It is unfortunate for me to hear the union saying that I am not to be trusted and all of that. That is just not true. They keep taking about eleven years; I’ve only been here since 2012 and since 2012, I have made every effort to get this negotiation going. I was the one who paid the stevedores seven years in retroactive pay plus an increase every year. So I’ve done many things for them. I am the person who also implemented the insurance; these people were not insured and now they are insured. Miss Matura and myself sat at this same table and we agreed let’s forget the past, let’s not talk about delays, let’s not talk about anything…let’s move forward. So yesterday when they kept talking about eleven years, I keep saying to them we have said we will forget the past. Let’s move ahead. Obviously there is a discrepancy in what we negotiated; that is obvious. So that requires further discussions, for negotiations. But you cannot have further negotiations if you have a gun to my head. So that is just not possible. It is not possible for me to sit in a room and negotiate when you have a strike. That is basically saying to me that I will not move until you give me what I want. That is no way to negotiate.”

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