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EDITORIAL – October 19th. 2018

EDITORIAL – October 19th. 2018
October 19
17:09 2018

The labour dispute over longer hours of work for waterfront workers of the Christian Workers Union and the Belize Port Authority has been blown out of all proportion by the narrow and wholly unrealistic view of the Belize Port Authority.

The Port Authority has discovered that for safety reasons waterfront workers and stevedores should not be working more than eight continuous hours a day. The Port Authority now wants to restrict workers to the legal limit by removing the option port workers now enjoy to earn more take-home pay through overtime.

But this overtime practice has been going on for years with the mutual approval of management and labour. Workers have become dependent on this extra income to care for their families. They have a reasonable expectation of higher earnings endorsed by several years of customary practice. They are willing to put in the extra time at work for the benefit of taking home more pay.

It amounts to cruel and unreasonable treatment to now deprive these workers of this extra income, especially since the Port Authority has been for years a willing partner in the arrangement.

If it is illegal for workers to go beyond the statutory hours of work in order to earn more money, it is equally illegal for the Port Authority to be paying out this money to the workers.

The solution, as Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte pointed out in a letter to the Port Authority last week, is to find common ground to amend the regulations governing hours of work. Experience has shown that there are no undue risks involved in having the workers do the extra hours. The dispute could have been avoided in the first place with a little sympathy forthe cause of the workers applied with a little common sense.

If the Port Authority has the money to pay the workers, and the workers are not depriving other workers by their extended workload, then the Port Authority’s position is untenable.

We all know that work on the waterfront is an essential industry and workers are not as free to strike as they would like to. This is all the more reason to treat them with consideration, especially when their cause is a just cause.

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