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May 14, 2012

Sugar Barge Stevedores on strike

There is a developing story tonight on unrest between stevedores, represented by the Christian Workers Union, and the management of the Port of Belize Ltd.  Since eight o’clock this morning dockworkers responsible for the offloading of sugar barges off the coast of Belize City have effected industrial action against the administration of PBL which is under receivership by the Belize Bank Ltd.  According to Acting CWU President, James McFoy, the union has exhausted all efforts to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement which should include an increase in salary.  Stevedores have not been given a raise of pay since 2004.  One of the main sticking points that led to today’s strike is the provision of meals for employees on shift.  The standoff is tonight affecting the sugar industry and threatens to continue, according to McFoy.

 

James McFoy, Acting President, Christian Workers Union

“When they went into receivership, we were called just after the Christmas for a meeting because the workers were concerned and they had the media out there. So we spoke to the receiver who was Mister Auturo Vasquez and we were given assurance that things would not be the same as previous management meaning that they were prepared to settle matters which were not settled before and expeditiously get it started and done. We signed a document which a framework on the twenty-third of March this year whereby we set up how we will go about starting negotiation. Point one, you sent me your proposal then I will send you—everything has it in a fourteen days period. The union did its part; we sent them our proposal, they should eventually send us. In fact we sent them our proposal on the tenth of April. They should have sent us their counter-proposal by the twenty-fourth or within. We di not get anything from them. I tried to get in contact with them by phone, wrote them, no response.”

 

Isani Cayetano

James McFoy

“Where are we currently in terms of any industrial action or in terms of any type of protest or strike against what is currently happening? What is the union doing?”

 

James McFoy

“Well we are on an industrial action at this moment; officially I sanction the action. So it is the official sanction. Even with that, I still try to get in contact with them. In fact as we speak, a letter is going to management saying to them that we are prepared to sit down and talk, now, tomorrow, if you want twelve o’clock; I am prepared to talk to you and so the work can continue. As a matter of fact for information, the workers come to a halt; no work. I spoke to the agents who are the people that ships out the sugar and they ask me what is my position and I told them my position is this: if these people at the Port prepared to talk to the union based on certain demands that the workers want to put in place before they start to work, we are prepared to sit down and talk and the work will resume. I just have to tell them go ahead; everything ok. One basic one of it is that they want their food out there. today the work stop because of the fact that I told them this morning that the workers want their food out there—they don’t want no payment for food anymore. And I gave them enough time to buy food and send it out there for them. They did not so when the food did not reach, the workers said we noh wah work without food so end of story.”

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