PORT OF BELIZE AND STEVEDORES REACH AGREEMENT
A dispute between stevedores and their employer, the Port of Belize Limited, has ended with an arrangement – albeit after two sessions today with the Christian Workers’ Union representing the men. The stevedores, who load sugar from barges onto ships, were asking for, among other things, for their meals to be delivered to them to the loading dock four miles out to sea and, to be paid per shift rather than on a weekly basis. On an average, stevedores who work sugar barges are paid roughly $110 per 12 hour shift, and those men, 33 of them, went on strike on Monday morning in their bid to bring the Port of Belize to the table. The first session between the Port’s Receiver, Arturo Vasquez and the CWU’s Secretary General, James McFoy, ended at around twelve thirty and at that point, there was no agreement. The Port called back the Union representative and the stevedores into a second discourse that ended shortly before three this afternoon. And when that was over, the dust had settled and work had resumed. Love News has been trailing the day’s events outside the Port of Belize compound and was there when McFoy emerged from the meeting the second time around.
James McFoy – Secretary General, Christian Workers Union
“We signed a document just a while ago whereby as you could recall that when I came out earlier they were at two times for the week payment and advance increase from $50.00 to $100.00 and that was it. They called us back and told us they were in a different position whereby they forgot to told us why it is not feasible and not possible. They said some of the workers had bank loans and mortgages and so and it would have been difficult. We jostled around that and we came to the understanding that the bank has nothing to do with the payment, you do it on a daily basis and the worker and the bank will work out their difference we agreed that they will work out their details. We finally got to the point where we agree that they will pay everyday, everytime they come off the ship but they will have to work on the system to change it from what they have been doing to a daily or shift set up. That is supposed to come into play in the next two weeks but in the meantime they will be paid two times a week, Monday and Friday. Because we have agreed to pay the daily then we said the workers are prepared to buy their own meals and take it out there. We managed to get them to send us a counter proposal to start negotiations immediately.”
Love News also got a first word with the Port’s Receiver, Arturo Vasquez.
Arturo Vasquez – Port Receiver
“In my opinion I thought what they wanted was more money up front and so we proposed to increase their advance to $100.00 for meals of course they did not accept that. They stayed on this about being paid on a daily basis and so we offered to pay them twice a week because to be honest the daily payment is a little tedious and money has to go to the bank, these people have commitment to the bank, about 90% of them that have commitment so it could be pretty tedious to do it with the bank. I asked them for a break and I met with my staff, my accountant for them to tell me how difficult it would be. I am not looking at cost, they believe I don’t want to do it because of cost, it is not because of cost, it is because of how tedious and difficult it would be to pay on a daily basis. I spoke to my people and I realized we probably could do it so what we did really is that we decided to pay them twice a week for two weeks and by that time I am convinced by my accountant and my staff that we will be able to get back on a daily basis.”
The parties, meanwhile, will begin negotiations on May 24th, regarding a Memorandum of Understanding that dates back to 2004.