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Jul 24, 2020

PM on the State of Affairs at the Port of Belize

Dean Barrow

As the court was handing down its ruling on the injunction and reinstatement, the Prime Minister made a statement on the state of affairs in the House this morning.  Now, the Port of Belize maintains that its property was vandalized on Wednesday during an illegal protest by C.W.U. members inside its compound. It has also rejected that the demonstration was peaceful and maintains it has acted well within the scope of the law attempting to settle the long-standing dispute with the union.  There is a correspondence of July twentieth, in which the P.B.L. wrote to the C.W.U. saying that despite the downturn from the pandemic, the P.B.L. has had to contend with the deliberate attempts by the stevedores to hurt the company financially.  Notwithstanding it has continued to consult with the C.W.U. and the Labour Commissioner even as the union has made numerous demands, but would not negotiate in good faith. This is how the Prime Minister addressed the issue.


Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Indeed, Madame Speaker, from as early as March second of this year, the CWU advised the Ministry of Labor that its general staff, the general staff and the stevedores at the Port of Belize were in protest mode.  Madame Speaker, one of the many reasons for this is the seeming impossibility of concluding updated collective bargaining agreements in relation to both the PBL staff and the PBL stevedores.  The one for the staff ought to have been renegotiated in 2004 and the other for the stevedores in 2012.  Madame Speaker, reaching industrial relations accords is never an easy thing but it’s beggar’s belief that a collective bargaining agreement should in any circumstances be outstanding for sixteen years.  In the result, there have been, as we well know, these confrontations, go-slows, walkouts, strikes, all this affecting a facility that is a veritable lifeblood for the people of Belize.  The CWU asserts that this grievous breakdown is entirely due to bad faith on the part of the Port of Belize.  PBL, of course, has its own counter-narrative and the Ministry of Labor has tried its best to steer a professional, legally mandated course through this sea of acrimony.  The latest episode in the saga began almost two months ago, on June fourth.  That’s when the Ministry of Labour was copied on an email from PBL inviting the CWU to a meeting the following day to discuss, and I quote, contingency measures needed to address the financial impact experienced as a result in the reduction of business and revenue at the port, end of quotation.”

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