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Aug 16, 2013

Negotiations between stevedores and Port at a standstill

Arturo Vasquez

Amidst the apparent implosion of the Christian Workers Union is the Port of Belize Limited (P.B.L.).  The stevedores, one of nine entities represented by the union, are contracted by P.B.L. to load and discharge the contents of cargo vessels at the harbor.  The company has been engaged in ongoing dialogue with union leaders concerning a collective bargaining agreement on behalf of the dockworkers.  Those negotiations have been impeded as a result of the fall out.

 

Arturo Vasquez, C.E.O., Port of Belize Ltd.

“When we started last year, when we decided to start negotiations we were aware of the fact or of the condition that the leadership was in, meaning that there has not been an election for some years.  There were no financials.  I can tell you now that I had tried to bring that to the attention of the union but in a very careful manner because I did not want it to appear as if I was trying to use that to break down negotiations so to speak.  But I had meetings with some senior stevedores in this room one day, mainly on that topic to say to them this is a situation I think you should look into and, for whatever reason, at that time they did not take it up which is exactly what they are doing now.  We have been having some delays in our negotiations and the delays, whatever the union wants to say, has been coming from the union’s side.  Lately, the union has claimed that they had lost their negotiating team.  They were coming in here in fragments of one or two or three and we were bringing it to their attention and they eventually said to us, “you know what we need to regroup and come up with a new negotiating team.”  So that basically officially stopped it for a little while between us and then eventually, I would imagine, the pressure of the union them back to the table and then they asked us for a meeting with the Labor Commissioner, which we met with the Labor Commissioner about five weeks ago.  The purpose of that meeting really was for them to address some concerns we had because one of the reasons why we had broken down the last time was because we had agreed in writing that we would not be going to the media with anything having to do with the negotiations or anything that would delay the negotiations.  And, in our opinion, they did that not too long ago.  So, as a result of that we had decided to write them on it; so, they figured that the best way to deal with it was to go to the Labor Commissioner with it and we accepted.”

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