Itís been a while since the stevedores made the news over their on-going negotiations with the receivers/managers of the Port of Belize.
Theyíve been allowing the slow grinding process to run its course, but today after all that discontent building up, they lashed out at their union for not forcefully negotiating their position.
They called us today to the office of the Public Service Union, after a meeting with their president and their general secretary to update the membership on the negotiations.
Their president spoke to us first, where he described how the meeting went:
Antonio Gonzalez - President, CWU
"The stevedores have some serious dissatisfaction with the way how the negotiations are going on. They have voiced their opinion as to that we need to be more forceful - we need to be more aggressive in our discussion with the management of Port of Belize Limited. So our dissatisfaction and the ongoing negotiations - we totally agree with it because it has been going on for too long now so we go along with the feelings of the stevedores on this matter. We intend to pursue and to more faster on a more aggressive nature towards the negotiations. What we have seen is that and we have we experienced is that they have three areas of contentions right now - in fact, 5. We have the area of retirement, the gang situation, and the hours of work, the disciplinary procedure and the grievance procedure. These are main factors in the collective agreement and as such the concerns of the stevedores and in particular to the gang and the hours of work and as such we intend to pursue those issues on a more aggressive manner."
But part of their issue, according to the Stevedores themselves, is that Gonzalez hasnít been doing a good enough job in the negotiations, and they viciously criticized him.
Hereís what both sides told us:
Leopold Smart - Stevedore
"Mr. Gonzalez isn't stepping on those people, he is soft with those people. Around the table I brought up some real questions to them and their lawyers and Mr. Gonzalez didn't pick up. If we are the sole bargaining agent then it is us that runs it. Mr. Gonzalez is saying how much port -so the port of Belize is taking over everything and we are not satisfied - we are changing that. If Mr. Gonzalez doesn't change it then we will change him."
Antonio Gonzalez- President, CWU
"We intend to be more together as a team, as a union with membership and as such, I personally appreciate when our members criticize the leadership - it's acceptable and it should happen."
"When the Prime Minister and all of them hears that we closed down - we hope that they are not surprised, because we aren't getting the right treatment out here. Mr. Gonzalez isn't representing us right."
Raymond Rivers - Stevedore
"When the Port was sold between Luke Espat and the PUP's - the stevedore got thrown into a dirt pan which was null and void. We want Mr. Barrow to respect us and what we are doing for over 8 years and we are sending out a thing to BSI - the sugar company that comes, don't look out for stevedores to load any sugar because everybody is getting their 'pc' around there and we aren't getting anything. We want to know how the funds of the port is going -when is the port going to finished being paid for, for who is the port? Who are we working for? When will you sell the port? These are things that we want to know now."
Another point of contention which the Stevedores have is that according to them, the original MOU, which established the Waterfront Workers as employees of the port, is missing from the Registry. And, of course, theyíre assuming the worst, that itís been destroyed or stolen.
We hope to follow up on that issue tomorrow.