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May 14, 2012

Port Receiver discuss stevedore issue

Arturo Vasquez

According to receiver, Arturo Vasquez, the Christian Workers Union forwarded a list of demands on behalf of the stevedores and was expecting a prompt response from PBL management.  When the administration chose not to present a counterproposal prior to discussing the details of a new collective bargaining agreement, employees decided to take action.  Most affected is the Belize Sugar Industries Ltd. which is left to foot a mounting bill as a result of the current delay. 

 

Arturo Vasquez, Receiver, Port of Belize Ltd.

“Currently there is a demand made by the union which they made this morning which came as a surprise to me because since we signed the negotiating framework agreement, everything has been going okay since then. There may have been some things maybe that they don’t like apparently, but I was very surprised this morning when they came by and made a demand. A demand really which is almost impossible to deal with. It has to do with; the situation has always been that when the stevedores worked the sugar ship, they are paid in advanced for their meals. Meals have never been delivered to the boat; we are talking about four hundred dollars a trip so to speak—it’s like taking a boat and delivering fifteen to twenty plates of food which really doesn’t make any sense. The thing about it is that this request was made before and only last year there was a joint press release that was signed between both of them agreeing that no meal will be delivered; we will pay you in advance and that has been happening ever since. Again I’ll repeat, there was never meals ever delivered to any sugar ship. Today now they come and say; as of today, we don’t want any money anymore, we want you to bring the food. Even if we want to, we will have to first of all talk about this thing again. And that is their demand. There are some other demands talking about they no longer want to be paid at the end of the week. Remember all of this is in writing: it is agreed you will get an advance for your food, you will be paid on a weekly basis—all of this that is in agreement, they have now decided as of today, we don’t want any of that. We want this, this, this and this.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“In essence, is it safe to say then that they are reneging on their part of an agreement that has been committed in black and white?”

 

Arturo Vasquez

“Yes. And the simple one I am using is the one with the food. I repeat it again. They get an advance—that has been the arrangement for years—now today they say we don’t want the money anymore, we want the food. You bring me that food. We can’t do it and even if we want to, we would have to sit down and discuss how we go about doing this. This boat is about four miles away, it will have to be running up and down talking food three times a day and that is the reason I imagine from the beginning that was never agreed on. And the other thing is that you pay them at the end of the week like anybody else. I think before they had the argument of every time they came off the ship they want their payments. That would we knew would mean that we would have to be doing payroll every day. So again, all this was negotiated before, they had agreed that this will not be the case and now today they are saying forget all of that; we want all of this to go back.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Mister Vasquez, I am imagining that this was the status quo prior to the company going into receivership earlier this year. One of the arguments that has been brought forward is the fact that they have been lobbying with the previous administration of the company and of course with the current administration to get a raise.  And this has been so since 2004. Mister McFoy is saying that all requests, all petitions and all efforts to get an audience to seriously look at this particular issue has fallen on deaf ears. Where do they stand?”

 

Arturo Vasquez

“I took receivership in January. And when I took receivership, one of the first groups that I met with was the union; along with everybody: I met with management, the shipping agents, customs—I met with everybody that had to do with the port. The union did say to me that they have been trying to get a collective bargaining agreement in place ever since the Port got privatized. As the days went on, I found out different things; I found out that since 2004 there was an MOU between the Port and the union and this came about because at the privatization the stevedores used to work for the shipping agents. At the privatization, the Port took them on. When they took them on, they only took them on to say you will continue to work and we will look after you. Obviously the stevedores said okay I need to know under which conditions I am employed. At the time of course they could not get into details so all they did was sign a memorandum of understanding saying we will take you on and we will negotiate a collective bargaining agreement later on.”

 

So tonight the standoff remains in effect and Vasquez says that a meeting with the CWU is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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