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May 15, 2012

Port of Belize and Christian Workers Union reach agreement

Tonight, a go slow at the Port of Belize has been called off and loading operations are resuming on board a Thai vessel loaded with sugar.  After a protracted meeting that started this morning and ended in the afternoon, the Christian Workers Union and the Port of Belize signed off on a six point agreement that kicks in on June first. One of the union demands involving the delivery of food to stevedores was worked out and both sides agreed to go back to the table on pending issues. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A six-point action plan ratified by the Christian Workers Union, on behalf of a hundred and fifty stevedores, and the management of Port of Belize Ltd. has, for now, brought to an end a standoff between both parties.  On Monday morning, the union effected a go-slow during which the loading of the Emwika Naree, a cargo vessel flying the Thai flag with a carrying capacity of seventeen thousand, three hundred and fifty-three metric tons of sugar, came to an abrupt halt.  While the industrial action can potentially cost PBL should the ship’s voyage from Belize on June fourteenth be delayed, cooler heads have prevailed, allowing for a meeting to discuss the issues affecting the port’s dockhands.

 

Arturo Vasquez, Receiver, Port of Belize Ltd.

“We met some of their demands.  We met halfway and we also agreed to get back to the negotiating framework that we had with our next meeting scheduled for next week Thursday.”

 

James McFoy

That agreement succeeds lengthy deliberations.  Upon their emergence shortly after midday today Acting President James McFoy of the CWU, along with several experienced stevedores, was summoned back into the negotiating room where another round of discussions was held.

 

James McFoy, Acting President, Christian Workers Union

“We signed a document just a while ago whereby, as you will recall when I came out this morning, earlier, they [PBL] were at two times for the week payment and the advance increased from fifty dollars to a hundred dollars and that was it.  But they called us back as you could recall and they said they’re in a different position whereby they forgot to tell us why it is not feasible or not possible because they say some of the workers had bank loans and mortgages and so on and it would have been difficult.”

 

Despite the perceived difficulty and what can be described as a rather impractical request which may inevitably prove tedious for the banks, the stevedores stood firmly behind their demand.

 

Arturo Vasquez

Arturo Vasquez

“Paying daily could be difficult because these people, about ninety percent of the stevedores have commitments with the Family Court or with the bank.  So I thought that by getting the union back in to say to them well listen, this could create another problem in that these commitments, we could not be paying these people in cash because we will then be going up against our commitments to the bank.  And that’s why we got them back in to sort of say to them consider all of this which also affects the reason why it’s hard to pay on a daily basis.”

 

Daily compensation, according to the agreement, will commence on June first with tentative payments set for the twenty-second, twenty-fifth and twenty-eighth of May.  The fourteen-day extension should allow for the management of PBL to transition smoothly into the new payment scheme.

 

James McFoy

“We have to give them that grace period of two weeks.  So we do not foresee anything breaking down on either side.  If after the two weeks things do not happen then we will have to do what we have to do again.”

 

Arturo Vasquez

“Today I think it was really, on both parties, the interest really here was to get things back on track and to agree to something like this, I don’t think is that much of a deal for us to agree with.  It is not what we would prefer to do but it is not something that I would, as the person here making that decision, it’s something that I would have said absolutely no and create a bigger problem.”

 

By that time, hopefully, the loading of the Emwika Naree should have been completed.  Failure to meet that deadline can cost PBL an estimated eight thousand U.S. dollars per day for every additional day the vessel remains docked.  While work on stocking the vessel resumes tonight stevedores have also agreed that they will be paid in advance for meals during the shift.

 

Raymond Rivers

Raymond Rivers, Stevedore

“We have wahn suga boat weh deh out deh, weh wahn di out deh fi wah month so if dehn do di wrong thing or say di wrong thing or noh live up to dehn word da right back and like weh a say, we, we noh have to worry bout di lee hundred weh we mek, da dehn haffi di worry bout di thousands weh dehn lose every hour or whateva right.  So I just wahn dehn play dehn game straight and I believe by the fifteenth ah July we fi done settle this and that da fu we ultimatum to dehn to.  By the fifteenth ah July I believe we fi done set everything because afta that we wah come rasher if dehn noh really deal wid we straight, cause from di container wah shet down if dehn noh really deal wid we straight and we noh get this thing ready by July right.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

 

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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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