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Oct 18, 2018

Twenty-one Day Notice Extended, Possible Strike Action is Delayed Another Ten Days

There is some relief tonight as a strike by stevedores has been averted at least for now.  This afternoon, the stevedores, the Port of Belize and the Labour Department met in Belize City as the deadline for the start for the proposed strike approached. The meeting was testy but after three o’clock the two sides emerged from the meeting and announced they had agreed to more time to allow for negotiations to continue. It means that the stevedores will remain on duty and loading and unloading of cargo will proceed at the Port of Belize as usual. While they have not been able to agree on salary increases and working hours so far, the stevedores are now introducing the size of the gangs which they want to expand. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports. 

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The likelihood of industrial action to be taken by stevedores who are at loggerheads with the management of the Port of Belize Limited has been staved off, at least for another ten days.  The extension of the twenty-one day notice at the eleventh hour was effected by the Junior Minister of Labour who is an intermediary in trying to resolve the ongoing dispute.  It is the hope of Dr. Carla Barnett that the matter involving working hours and remuneration will be settled in the days to come without the waterfront workers having to resort to a strike.

 

Dr. Carla Barnett, Minister of State, Labour

Dr Carla Barnett

“Based on the earlier discussions that we had had, that we would be preparing, we were in fact preparing to extend the twenty-one days by ten days so that we could proceed with the establishment of the tribunal that’s provided for under the law so that if it came to that we would be able to activate that very quickly.”

 

Somehow, the notion of a preliminary sit-down ahead of the scheduled meeting this afternoon may not have been communicated clearly to the president of the Christian Workers Union.

 

Evan Hyde

Evan ‘Mose’ Hyde, President, Christian Workers Union

“What happened was that the Port of Belize negotiating team wrote a letter to the minister this morning asking for the minister to essentially rescind our twenty-one day notice and this is after the minister had indicated that she had decided to put together the tribunal and she has the power to extend our twenty-one days.  And so, she has extended that ten more days and our legal advisor has told us that she has the power to do so.  We disagreed and we felt very insulted in fact that the port would have written a letter to get the minister to try to take away our twenty-one day notice without even copying us on that letter.”

 

According to Dr. Barnett, the miscommunication led to a brief exchange of words over the manner in which the request to extend the notice had been undertaken.

 

Dr. Carla Barnett

“There were some words that went across the table that let them have their say.  I think it was a bit of a misunderstanding about the intention of what we were doing, but it’s really just to give us the space in which to do what is required of us under the law.  So today we wrote both the Port of Belize and the Christian Workers Union formally telling them that we were extending the twenty-one days by a further ten days so that we could proceed to establish the tribunal required under the law.”

 

CEO Arturo ‘Tux’ Vasquez, who manages the Port of Belize, was of the opinion that once both parties had agreed to exchange proposals that the notice of industrial action would have been canceled.  He was prompted to write to the minister today when he learned after Wednesday’s meeting that the clock was still ticking.

 

Arturo Vasquez

Arturo ‘Tux’ Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize Ltd.

“I did not expect that the twenty-one days would have been extended, obviously I did not expect that but again, with the explanation I got, I am prepared to continue to discuss it.  I thought that once we had arrived at that compromise of saying we will exchange counterproposals for the hours of work, I thought the twenty-one days came off.    But the minister explained that she needs a bit more time for her to perhaps, if the possibility is to go to tribunal then she also needs that time.”

 

Aside from the extension, details of a counterproposal by the Christian Workers Union were shared orally with PBL during today’s meeting.

 

Evan ‘Mose’ Hyde

“We have presented them a verbal description of our counterproposal on the matter of hours of work.  It was sent to them during the lunch time today, so they have asked for more time to look at it so we are scheduled to meet on Tuesday morning about what they feel about our counterproposal, but we do have problems on the horizons because we brought up a matter that is very important to us and we told the PBL negotiating team.  Since yesterday they indicated that the gang composition was a matter that they consider pending.  Now, you must understand for us that was very uncomfortable for us because our gangs have already been reduced by the intermediate agreement.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Why is there a push for another reduction in the gang size?”

 

Arturo Vasquez

“That situation is, there was an agreement signed in June 2017 where there were four points that were agreed to and that’s where the stevedores got their increase in their pensions, from three percent on regular salary to four percent on production bonus which actually multiplies the pension tenfold.  So what I am trying to explain to the union is that that one particular item that we would have discussed a further deduction came as a result of a complete joint agreement.”

 

That agreement, according to Vasquez, was struck prior to the presidency of Mose Hyde.

 

Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.


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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