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Oct 5, 2018

Stevedores and Port Management to Resume Discussions on October Tenth

Will cooler heads prevail between waterfront workers and the management of Port of Belize Limited, as the twenty-one day notice for industrial action inches closer?  Both parties are yet to find common ground on the legality of the existing hours of work where gangs are toiling a single continuous shift that may exceed twenty-four hours in order to discharge a cargo ship.  In meeting with the Christian Workers Union and PBL, Minister of State Dr. Carla Barnett promptly sought a legal opinion from Solicitor General Nigel Hawke on the issue.  This takes into consideration the laws of Belize, as well as international treaties and conventions that the country is signatory to.  Earlier today, Dr. Barnett sat with both parties once again to chart the way forward, reiterating that a dispute exists only on the matter of the hours of work and made clear its role in accordance with Sections four and eleven of the Settlement of Dispute in Essential Services Act.  It stipulates, if necessary, the appointment of a tribunal within twenty-one days to determine the dispute.  News Five spoke with Kenton Blanco, a stevedore who has been working at the Port of Belize for the past eleven years.  He’s also a member of the Christian Workers Union’s executive.

 

Kenton Blanco

Kenton Blanco, Stevedore

“I just became a member the same time Brother Mose came on and the things that I have seen, like he is saying, we are not negotiating in good faith.  We have been on this matter ever since.  If you and I have something to discuss and you and I have other things to discuss, let’s just put this aside.  That’s what we’re requesting.  Put this aside and let us discuss the other matters, let us move on.  But they refuse to, you understand.  They refuse to give us what we want.  I don’t know what else to say.  Ah wahn bruk it down eena Creole term, if dehn wahn think dis da di ol’ set ah stevedores weh just wahn tek, tek, tek and bow down, no!  Dis da fu we livelihood.  Yes, lotta people wahn know how we do dis.  The boat, specifically the BEC wah big boat, dehn woulda call it BEC cause we work three ships.  Yo got di Friday boat, di Sunday boat, di BEC.  Pan di BEC yo work extended hours, twenty-four, thirty, thirty-six hours.  But for a gang, we have eight gangs, one gang works that ship once every eight weeks.  So it’s once every eight weeks you work that extended hours maybe, once every eight weeks.  Come on, we are not, you know they put us as essential service due to the Statutory Instrument back in 2016, we understand that, but this is something, dis da tradition fi stevedores.  This is something that is in our blood, we know how to do this.  Like the president explained, fifty stairs of steps, we go excessive heights in really rough weather, we withstand those things and for them to come to us and say yo we wahn cut fi unu hours just fi suit fi dehn pocket.”

 

Both parties have agreed to reconvene on October tenth to share legal opinions on the issue of hours of work.  If the matter remains unresolved following those discussions, it will be referred to the tribunal for final determination.

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