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Dec 22, 2015

Tux Fires Back at Audrey about Stevedores Benefits

On Monday, CWU President Audrey Matura-Shepherd came out swinging in the wake of an amendment to the Essential Services Act.  The revised legislation now includes stevedoring as part of services which when interrupted would endanger the lives, health or personal safety of the whole or part of the population.  Needless to say, Matura-Shepherd took aim squarely at the management of the Port of Belize, particularly C.E.O. Arturo ‘Tux’ Vasquez, whom she says acted in bad faith during the ongoing negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.  Earlier today, Vasquez rebutted those allegations, pointing out that Matura-Shepherd is grossly misinformed where it concerns the facts of the matter.

 

Arturo ‘Tux’ Vasquez

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

“Between the CWU and the Port of Belize we had agreed on two things that we would try to keep our negotiations within closed doors and we would also, we would have kept ourselves outside of the media.  When it comes to the passing of the SI, that is something, I believe, that was passed by government and therefore that is something that the comments would have to be made by government.  The new leader under Mrs. Matura never fully engaged the Port until some twelve months after. I can tell you that we have a sequence of events documented to prove that delay, but of course I had no intention of doing that unless I really get to the point of having to show that information. But it took some twelve months before the new leadership actually started negotiating with the Port. I want to refer to poor workers and least benefits….on an average a stevedore works around forty to seventy days for the year and earns an average of about thirty-five thousand dollars per year. You can compare that to an average worker who works for a complete year and you would see that there is a difference. I refer now to less academically qualified…Misses Matura referred to them as less academically qualified. Unlike their president, I will not categorize them in that manner. I would say that they are perhaps the less fortunate in terms of job availability; however, being a stevedore is certainly a good job to have. It is a traditional type of employment that makes sure that you remain a member—whether that being a family or friend—but that you remain a part of that group; it is a tradition. And of course, stevedores, water front workers worldwide…it is something of that tradition. I can now refer to the comment that Chamber of Commerce had already requested such a legislation. I need to make it clear that while I am now the president of the Chamber of Commerce, that request was made some time ago and not under my leadership. However, since we represent the business center—importers and exporters—to whom the Port is a critical aspect of their operation, that request certainly remains a priority and only remains a priority for the Chamber of Commerce. Now another comment was made to say Port has frustrated any attempt by the union for a CBU. Referring back to my previous comments, since 2012, the Port has never removed itself from the negotiating table. We immediately entered into negotiation in 2012 after taking over. After the change in the CWU leadership, again as I mentioned we waited some twelve months before the leadership got back to the negotiating on the CBA. We only actually started some three months ago. During that time, I can tell you we have completed every single scheduled meeting that was agreed between both parties. Another will be today. This is a big one…stevedores haven’t gotten a million dollars—this is quoting Miss Matura—not even half a million dollars and not even a quarter of a million dollars for this year. Quite unfortunate that some people will speak without proper information. Christmas bonus alone for 2015, for stevedores alone was a total of two hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars. Total salary and allowances for 2015 for stevedores are around five point five million dollars. Let me repeat that, five point five million dollars have been paid in 2015 to stevedoring alone. We can compare that to an average company and their total annual salary. How many companies you know probably have five point five million dollars of salary per annum?”

 

This is surely not going to be the last time we hear from both parties on the topic of stevedores.

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