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Sep 18, 2013

Port of Belize C.E.O. discusses wide range of issues including the CBA

Arturo Vasquez

The Port of Belize has been going through a phased out modernization program. In the past months, new equipment has been acquired, construction work continues to take place to improve and upgrade the facilities and customers are benefitting from improved security and services.  This morning, Receiver and C.E.O., Arturo “Tux” Vasquez, discussed a wide range of issues including the often stormy relations with stevedores. Vasquez says that while they have reached agreement on some points, negotiations are continuing on other areas of the collective bargaining agreement.

 

Arturo Vasquez, Receiver/C.E.O., Port of Belize

“The way the system works, when you call on a gang—let’s say a gang is fifteen people—the fifteen people may not show up. It may be only thirteen because stevedores don’t have to come out when you call them. Like say if you call fifteen and only thirteen come out, there are two guys who may not be prepared to work that particular ship, but they are part of that gang. There are twenty-five guys outside who are waiting. So before they would go on the ship to start working, they would call two of the other guys to make the fifteen. There’s two things here; there is the working hours and there is also the gang size—two of the critical things. The system right now is what we are trying to change. A gang will work a ship until it is complete. It can take fifty hours and these guys will work the entire ship. We have been trying to and I think we have agreed that we will work within the law, which is about fifteen hours maximum that a gang should work. But like everything else, in negotiations there is a give and take. We both agree that the law is the law and that’s the way we should be working. But granted if a stevedore not working is complete let’s say twenty-five hours this boat will take to offload, we are trying to find a way as to how you can compensate that ten hours. If you are already used to working twenty-five and now I am saying that you can only do fifteen, the discussion right now is trying to see how we can compensate for that ten hours. Of course you can’t compensate it a hundred percent, but I think the solution to it in our part of the negotiation is that if you have a rotation, you will come on more often. So once the rotation kicks in, even if you are not working the full twenty-five, you may work fifteen, but another gang gets to work ten. So the rotation will work bring it on. The gang size is another one; about how many gangs you need on a gang. And again our suggestion with that really was that as people retire, we will not fill. So when we were talking about reducing gang size, at no point we were talking about terminating anybody at all. It was just a matter that as people retire—if it takes ten years—let’s not fill those retirements until we get those gangs to about twelve to thirteen guys per gang.”

 

According to Vasquez, a hundred and fifty stevedores are employed fulltime by the Port, but an additional twenty work on a needs basis. 

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