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Jun 29, 2011

Standoff between stevedores and Port of Belize Limited ends

The weeklong standoff between stevedores and the management of Port of Belize Ltd. ended this evening following a lengthy meeting mediated by Labor Commissioner Ivan Williams.  While both parties are yet to begin negotiating the terms for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, they were able to make progress in the area of incorporating substitute stevedores into the eight existing gangs.  Most importantly, it was agreed that stevedores will continue to receive advances and scheduled payments which were implemented in January of last year.  The meat of the matter, nonetheless, will not be addressed until July thirteenth when negotiations for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement are scheduled to commence.

Ivan Williams, Labor Commissioner

Ivan Williams

“For some time now there have been several concerns, issues coming from both sides, the Christian Workers Union and the management of the Port of Belize Ltd. and as usual the Labor Department does not intervene unless the parties agreed because as we all know the process of intervention is one which we can’t really force the parties to have the intervention of the Labor Department unless it is a matter that elevates to what we call a trade dispute.  And so for some time the parties have been trying to work out their differences.  Unfortunately that didn’t work out so today those issues were raised in the presence of the Labor Department and we were able to hear exactly what those issues are and through my offices we were able to engage the parties to discuss open and frankly their views and to seek a consensus or a win-win situation on each of the items and so we set out to do that this morning and that’s what we have completed.  It resulted in a signing of a joint press release on the main issues and several other sub-issues that were of pressing matters, pressing importance to the parties with a view that what really needs to happen is for the parties to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.”

Antonio Gonzalez

Antonio Gonzalez, President, Christian Workers Union

“There didn’t exist a good relationship between the management of Port of Belize Ltd. and the Christian Workers Union with regards to our membership and our membership within the company.  I think today we can say that it reached both parties to try to meet to dialogue and to find common grounds as to the issues that were the burning issues between both parties and we managed to overcome the position between the both parties so we finally got an understanding and an agreement on one or two major issues and in particular the composition of the various gangs, stevedoring gangs who load and unload vessels.”

Raineldo Guerrero, Chief Executive Officer, P.B.L.

Raineldo Guerrero

“Our positions were extremely far apart even prior to negotiations. If you take into account that an MOU was signed back in December of 2004 and we are talking June 2011 and we haven’t even started to negotiate; it tells you how polarized this thing is. We are polls apart. And the polarization comes from what it used to be before and when the Port took over, the Port took over as employers. So we were finally able to bridge that gap where the recognition came across that the stevedores were employees fo the Port. Having bridged that gap, then it set the pace for the dialogue to continue and we feel too that there was quite a bit of miscommunication, misunderstanding that because of that then it lead to other problems—those we were able to bridge today.”

So for now, a truce is in place and dialogue will continue.

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1 Response for “Standoff between stevedores and Port of Belize Limited ends”

  1. business man says:

    lazy @$$ men driving up the cost of doing business in Belize, that is why the port in Puerto Barrios is getting all the business.

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