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Mar 2, 2020

Stevedores protest outside Port of Belize

There was a protest outside of the Port of Belize Today. Stevedores, along with their Union president and other union leaders, stood outside the gates to  protest the news that raw sugar will start to move through the Port at Big Creek. They say that the millers, ASR/BSI and Santander are looking at more efficient and cost effective ways export their sugar. News Five went out to the Port of Belize today to get both sides of the issue. Here’s the story:


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Over one hundred and fifty stevedores staged a protest today at the Port of Belize Limited. They say that the reason for the protest is because they have learnt that raw sugar will be moved through the Big Creek Port instead of through the Port of Belize Limited. CWU’s president, Evan Mose Hyde explains the issue:


Evan Mose Hyde, President, CWU

Evan Mose Hyde

“The very unpleasant reality that it appears that Santander and ASR, based on the Santander press conference last week, which only confirmed hearsay and rumours that our members have been getting over the past eight to nine months. that we are going to have this multinational romance and consolidation where ASR puts its raw sugar through the Big Creek Port, bypassing the Belize Port having severe implications for our members.”


Hyde says this decision will see forty of the one hundred and fifty stevedores lose their jobs and the next one hundred and ten will also see a reduction in their annual salaries by as much as forty percent. Hyde says that this may have a economic impact of two million dollars and underprivileged families stand to lose the most:


Evan Mose Hyde

“We are looking at about almost one third of our stevedores will be unemployed because at least forty of them only work sugar, raw sugar export. Whenever that is closed down, they are effectively out of a job. The other stevedores will be impacted significantly as well, to the tune of about forty percent of their annual earnings. The number that we are putting out to the nation is about two million dollars worth of earnings will be lost from our members, per annum, out of this city, Belize City, and in many instances out of the southside of Belize City – an area than can least afford that kind of economic impact. It will have a devastating impact on our members’ financial stability. They want their fears remedied, their uncertainties cleared up and they want an agreement that gives them some sense of comfort if they are to be made redundant. Those are the issues why they are standing up today, or technically speaking standing down.”


Hyde says that they have learnt that ASR is engaging members of their sister union BWU about redundancies to come.  He laments that the Port of Belize hasn’t engaged the stevedores on this issue and that they haven’t tried to increase competitiveness to avoid these projected losses:


Evan Mose Hyde

“We have been engaging with no less than the highest office in the land, the Prime Minister, to have an intervention to see what can be done to get PBL to do what any normal corporation would do, that is compete; compete for its own shareholders and compete for its workforce. In our view, they have failed to do that. The government has indicated that they have failed to compel PBL to do that. The big thing here is that even as we speak, even the Prime Minister is unable to say definitely when exactly ASR is going to stop and all indications are that this is going to be the last season when they will export raw sugar out here and very reliable information is that the number of boats that will come here will be halved. So, this is going to be a disaster any way you look at it; a financial disaster.”


Today, however, CEO of the Port of Belize Limited Arturo Vasquez says that raw sugar will continue to be moved through the Port of Belize. Vasquez points out however, that the sugar companies are exploring more low cost ways to export its sugar:


Arturo Vasquez

Arturo Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize

“Exportation of raw sugar will not stop coming through the port of Belize. My understanding is that B.S.I was doing a test run last year but my understanding is that we have a ship starting in a couple of weeks. My understanding is that it will continue as it has been going but it has to be understood that B.S.I is looking at how they can do these loading of ships in a more economical way and so you all will understand that any corporation will be looking at trying to better their operations. In 2017, Belize lost its preferential price prices on sugar and ever since then BSI has to be as competitive as anybody else. Who is familiar with the loading of the sugar will know that it is a very antiquated system and it takes forever to be loaded. B.S.I over the years has been trying to work with us and the stevedores in seeing how we can perhaps to better that loading which has come to a point where it is no longer sustainable to do.”


For the first time, other staff members of the Port of Belize Limited also joined the stevedores today in protest. Those employees represent mechanic, warehouse, operations and office staff. They say that the re-negotiation of the CBA has stalled – and the Port of Belize has not been forthcoming on the matter.


Wayne Lambey, Staff Representative

Wayne Lambey

“We are without a CBA from 2004 that is about sixteen years. We have engaged management over and over, asking them to have a sit down with us to make the new CBA a reality. So, the CBA covers our employment and our salary and mileage and uniform and working environment.”


Andrea Polanco

“What has the quality of work been like for you guys without that CBA?”


Wayne Lambey

“It has been rough because we have some of those guys who came on eight years ago and in our CBA there is something called vacation grant and in our CBA, and under our CBA anybody employed for over five years and more get a vacation grant and that has been denied those members who came on eight years ago. To me it shouldn’t have reached this stage because it is just communication and if I am sending you my CBA to be looked at over a year, why is it that you as my management can’t come back and say you received my CBA and let’s sit down and chat about it.”


Andrea Polanco

“As you heard the stevedores are prepared to go the distance with this; what is it like for you guys? Are you guys prepared to stay out here?”


Wayne Lambey

“It seems that way now because the thing who feels the pain know what the results will be.”


So, what happens next? Will the stevedores be able to keep up the protest?


Evan Mose Hyde

“This is not a flirtation. This is not a one day stand – no – we are standing to get definitive resolutions and we are not going to pack our bags until decisions are made.”



“In a world where big money decisions are made, how does the small man fight it?”


Evan Mose Hyde

“Like this – just like this ( yeah) – clapping!”

Andrea Polanco 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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