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October 05
14:20 2018

The Christian Workers Union (CWU) announced this week that despite meetings with the Minister of Labour, it is still prepared to hold industrial action within its 21-day deadline for stevedores working at the Port of Belize Limited (PBL).

The CWU held a press conference on Thursday evening, explaining that the Union had two meetings with the Minister of Labour, Dr. Carla Barnett, the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Labour and the Acting Labour Commissioner.

During the course of those meetings the minister proposed several ways forward, including receiving a legal opinion from the Office of the Solicitor General about the hours of work issue, which the PBL has emphasized goes against the Laws of Belize.
CWU President, Evan “Mose” Hyde, explained that there are several other issues that need to be negotiated in the pursuit of a new collective bargaining agreement with the PBL, but that the Port has not been negotiating in good faith and forced the stevedores to pursue industrial action.

“Our position is that the law is there to protect the workers from abuse and not to prevent workers from earning the kind of salaries that makes them have financial stability,” Hyde said.

Hyde said that the union is prepared to negotiate on other matters while legal opinions are being formed on the hours of work issue while emphasizing that remunerations for the stevedores continues to be the Union’s top priority. Hyde said that when the BPL first came with the new proposals for shortened hours of work, the CWU had a certified accountant look at the proposals, and estimated that stevedores would have had their salaries reduced from $11.50 an hour to around $8.50 an hour when considering other factors.

On Monday, the CWU issued a release declaring the beginning of its 21-day countdown following its last meeting with the BPL ending in an impasse. Chief Executive Officer of the BPL, Arturo Vasquez, explained that the Port deliberately forced an impasse in negotiations with the CWU in the hopes of triggering a clause in their agreement which would bring in an independent third party for mediation.

The Port maintains that, even though the practice of exceeding the hours of work prescribed in the law has been a practice spanning back several year, the practice is still illegal and therefore needs to be discontinued.

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