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Dec 18, 2015

Statutory Instrument Includes Stevedoring as Essential Services

A new piece of legislation is coming into force prohibiting stevedores and other dockhands at the Port of Belize from effecting industrial action on a whim.  Earlier today, the Ministry of Labor issued a release stating that a statutory instrument has been signed to amend the section of the Laws of Belize which deals with the settlement of disputes in essential services.  The amendment comes in the wake of a four-day strike last week during which stevedores effectively walked off their jobs, forcing a virtual shutdown of operations at the Port of Belize.  The work stoppage resulted in the Caribe Navigator having to return to Miami with unloaded containers of turkey, hams and construction materials, delaying the arrival and delivery of goods from the United States at the peak of the shipping season.  In light of the potential economic impact of such action, government wasted no time in tailoring the Essential Services Act to include port services in Belize.  This afternoon, News Five spoke with port C.E.O. Tux Vasquez.


Arturo ‘Tux’ Vasquez

Arturo ‘Tux’ Vasquez, Receiver/C.E.O., Port of Belize

“The S.I. that I know was signed today is one that relates to the loading and offloading of cargo at the port which would involve all aspects of that, including stevedoring would be a part of that, which now puts that service under the essential services, which allows the port notice of strike intention.”


Isani Cayetano

“Is it safe to say that this measure that will be implemented once gazetted is the immediate result of industrial action that was taken recently and the fact that there were customers or clients who used the facility for the various services were affected by the action on either side?”


Arturo ‘Tux’ Vasquez

“It may have triggered something I think.  I think that what needs to be noted is that it may have been an oversight for this service not to have been an essential service.  I know that the pilotage and the security services are all part of the essential service and if you look at it closely I think the port authority is a part of the essential services as well.  So maybe when the port was privatized perhaps everything wasn’t looked at closely, but it could be anybody’s thinking that maybe the last few incidents may have brought this thing to life and for the authorities and everybody involved, including the port, to realize that such actions would need to have some sort of guidelines to it.  And for it to become an essential service I think that that service is important to be of essential service.  It is critical to the country as you can see from the last incidents.  We came pretty close, I would say, to having a national issue.”

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