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Mar 13, 2020

N.T.U.C.B. Stands in Solidarity with Waterfront Workers

A week ago, stevedores gave the required twenty-one-day notice of strike action at the Port of Belize. While they have returned to work, today, they held a rally and were bolstered with the support of the National Trade Union Congress.  The matter of an overdue Collective Bargaining Agreement and the expected shift by the sugar millers to transport sugar through the Big Creek Port is weighing them down. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports from the Port of Belize.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Waterfront workers, under the heat of the midday sun, congregated in front of the Port of Belize compound today where they were also joined by the leadership of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize.  On February sixth, the Ministry of Labour issued a release informing that industrial action taken by the stevedores had come to an end.  It gave the impression that the issues affecting the dockworkers had been resolved amicably.  One week later, the president of the Christian Workers Union, which represents the stevedores, is on record saying something different.


Evan ‘Mose’ Hyde

Evan ‘Mose’ Hyde, President, C.W.U.

“Despite a narrative that last Friday was somehow the wrapping up of the issues, really it was just getting a commitment to attack the issues around the table, but the issues are still present.  We still have crisis, the patient is still in critical condition.  So while we have made this strategy adjustment where as a part of good faith we are now operating under the essential services twenty-one day intent to strike, which under normal circumstances would be a significant news but because of the way we opened this process where we just said throw down the gauntlet because we are just being ignored here, people think that moving under twenty-one days is somehow normalizing of the situation.”


Dressed in all black attire, a symbolism for Friday the thirteenth, supporters of a peaceful, solidarity rally gathered around near the entrance to the compound.  Among them was N.T.U.C.B. President Marvin Mora.


Marvin Mora

Marvin Mora, President N.T.U.C.B.

“The entire N.T.U.C.B., the congress at that point, is already onboard and fully supporting the movement.  They believe that the guys have a legitimate case, regardless of what the issues are, having a set of people, a set of workers waiting from 2004 to now to complete a [Collective Bargaining Agreement] is something that is well beyond us.  That is really ridiculous and we call upon the management of PBL to do the right thing, come to the negotiation table, make some meaningful proposals and move the process forward.”


Isani Cayetano

“It is Friday the thirteenth and I observe that symbolically you guys are all wearing black.  Talk to us about that.”


Evan ‘Mose’ Hyde

“Well that speaks to the bigger N.T.U.C.B. putting out this Friday the thirteenth as a day that all unions that are a part of really pushing forward this demand for greater accountability, for reform, for creating the kind of structures and mechanisms to safeguard the interest of the people, the assets of the people from those who lead us, who might be indulged in things that are less than noble.  The skullduggery then, if you want to put it in blunt terms.”


Among several concerns that stevedores are grappling with is the possibility that shipments of raw sugar will be rerouted by land to Big Creek.  The impact of such a shift on their livelihood would be significant.  Since they are no closer to resolving these matters, they are simply counting down the days remaining before they resume industrial action.


Evan ‘Mose’ Hyde

“Twenty-one-day notice, nothing normal about that.  We are counting down to just completely returning to no work at all here on the waterfront.  In fact, we are down to thirteen days remaining.  We were finally able to meet again with PBL management representatives yesterday at the Labor Department and that meeting was essentially just to commit to certain deliverables.  So today we are to deliver a framework of the negotiations to create the Memorandum of Understanding that will determine the scope of the final agreement that we would consider a redundancy compensation package that would be fair and just.  So baby steps, baby steps.  In the meantime though, our brotherhood has never removed themselves from the frontline of protest.”


The Christian Workers Union has served a twenty-one day notice under the Settlement of Disputes in Essential Services Act and it is prepared to return to industrial action once the negotiations do not proceed accordingly.  CWU President Evan ‘Mose’ Hyde explains the immediate consequences should ASR decide to take its sugar south.


Evan ‘Mose’ Hyde

“The reality here is that when you are talking about a hundred and fifty members, forty of them would essentially be left without employment immediately if ASR decides to go to Big Creek.  Of the remaining hundred and fifty people, their earnings would be reduced by forty percent.  When we do the math, you’re looking at a per annum elimination of five million dollars from where?  From primarily Belize City, but which part of Belize City?  South side Belize City, grass roots Belize City.  Five million dollars out of the part of the community that can least afford to lose that, where we are socioeconomic ravages have basically fractured our society.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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