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Dec 21, 2015

Matura-Shepherd Says Stevedores Backs Are Against the Wall

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Matura-Shepherd says that the government’s action is on the side of big people and against working Belizeans. Furthermore, it strips stevedores from a fundamental pool to bargain for better terms and conditions of employment. Matura-Shepherd lists three options the government could take.

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, President, CWU

“One, they have learn and understand why since 2004—long before my time—Port of Belize has frustrated every attempt by the union to enter into a collective bargaining agreement with the stevedores. They need to get to the bottom of that; that’s one. Two; Port of Belize is in receivership they say and they don’t have money, but they refuse to open their books. I can tell you from working on the issue with B.S.I./ASR; according to the financials that was given to cane farmers…two point four million dollars in 2015—according to what B.S.I. has issued—was paid to the Port of Belize for stevedoring alone. That is just to empty sugar barges. Let Port of Belize show you us where that two point five million has gone. I can tell you for the whole year, stevedores haven’t even gotten a million dollars, not even half a million dollars; not even quarter million dollars because they are at the lowest level. So if government is interested about the plight of the people, well intervene—not only to help the big and powerful, not to help the masters who own Port of Belize, which is another issue I want to discuss. But to look at what is preventing there to be a CBA. A second thing that can be done is that government, who is the legislator, and who quickly and swiftly seem to be hot to sign things into law can quickly sign something else into law. As the law stands right now, if you do not work over one hundred and eighty days, there are certain benefits that you don’t get under our labor law and social security. These guys will never work a hundred and eighty days. They may work one week out of every month; that will never come up to a hundred and eighty days. So they will never get severance pay, they will never get paid sick leave, they will never get paid vacation leave. They don’t even qualify for most of the Social Security benefits because you would have to show that you have about fifty-two weeks of contribution continuously. But if you only work every other month or once a month, you would never have that. So if we have a just government, all they have to do is go now and with the same promptness change all those laws that have disenfranchised those men. That’s the second thing they can do. And the third thing they can do, if they are really serious about being equitable, I would suggest that they need to look now as to when you look at the Port, find out why they have never renationalized it. Remember the Port was a government entity, a public entity; it brings in a lot of money…millions of dollars. So if they thing it is an essential service, well give it the priority it should have. Make sure that you also take the Port and buy it back. Ask you Prime Minister, ask your Minister of Labor; ask all the ministers of government why they haven’t considered that option.”

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