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Jul 27, 2020

Port of Belize Ltd.: “Facts Not Fiction, Process Not Politics”

The Port of Belize remains on security level two following the violence of last Wednesday when an unlawful protest turned ugly.  Today, P.B.L. was open for business, but there has been no loading and unloading of cargo since last week.  The situation remains tenuous as stevedores have kept away, adding to the economic woes of the country.  One person was detained after he attempted to break the glass of the main entrance.  P.B.L. issued a statement today seeking to bring clarity to the situation under the headline, “Facts Not Fiction, Process Not Politics.” It says that the C.W.U. does not negotiate; it threatens. First, it states that P.B.L. has been operating well within the law, but unfortunately there are some, including elected officials and union leaders, who are spreading the false narrative of the C.W.U.  Second, in response of the redundant staff, the P.B.L. says that on July twenty-second, the affected persons refused to accept the redundancy letters and refused to leave the port premises. And this is why the P.B.L. sent electronic messages on their status.  The P.B.L. says it has incurred losses of ninety-four percent in cruise vessel related revenue, twenty-six percent reduction in cargo related revenue and that generally, 2020 is fourteen times worse than 2019.  This dire situation was communicated to the Labour Department and the P.B.L. sought meetings with the C.W.U. without success. Third, on the matter of the relocation of sugar vessels, the P.B.L. says it agreed to negotiate an M.O.U. and met deadlines; on the other hand, the C.W.U. missed six deadlines and since March sixth, C.W.U. stevedores have held four illegal strikes.  On the pending collective bargaining agreement, the P.B.L. says that in March, it submitted a draft proposal.  Since then, the C.W.U. has provided no counter proposals and has not responded to twelve requests for meetings.  In respect of the working hours for stevedores, the P.B.L. asserts that working hours violate the Labour Act. But the situation has not been remedied because the stevedores prefer to collect overtime and work long hours. It is estimated that stevedores make thirty-eight thousand two hundred and six dollars for an average of thirty-eight days of work. Lastly, the P.B.L. maintains that the C.W.U. members violated domestic and international security protocols by unlawfully occupying the port property last week and set fire to vehicles, hurling projectiles at police and P.B.L. staff, sabotaging electricity supply, damaging the IT infrastructure and property as well as threatening P.B.L. staff.  Late this evening, the C.W.U. issued its own release in response to the P.B.L.

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