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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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There is disharmony continuing at the Port of Belize as stevedores demand better working conditions. According to stevedore Deon Pitter, the union signed a letter structuring out a collective bargaining agreement negotiating framework on the 23rd of March of this year. That agreement stated that no later than 7 working days after signing, each party should submit to the other party the names of the members of their negotiating team. The Belize Christian Workers union sent the Port of Belize their proposal on April 30, 2012. Then on May 3rd the union wrote Mr. Arturo Vasquez confirming that the union has sent its proposal and is waiting the Port to send its counter proposal. Well the waiting stopped and yesterday most of the Stevedore workers staged an early morning press conference at about 5am outside the Port.

Raymond Rivers
The reason we are out here is because of the injustice from the Port of Belize receivership. We sent proposals to them and they sent back letters stating that they are broke and that they can't deal with us. We saw them buying a whole heap of things, but yet they say they are broke. We are going to work sugar this morning and we are implementing a go-slow because we need those people in there to move faster.

According to Raymond Rivers who is also a stevedore, the working conditions at the port are deplorable and there are several members who should be retired but the Port is refusing to pay them off, thus the ongoing fight. But is it a unified effort? Members were present at the press conference, but absent were the Christian Workers union president Antonio Gonzalez and General Secretary James McFoy. There were mixed feelings by members and Deon Pitter and Leopold Smart say they are not certain about what's going on with their leadership.

Dion Pitter
Management doesn't know anything about stevedores, they don't know anything about the containers, or how sugar works. We would want to invite them out there to see how the work goes. I take on that challenge, we take on that challenge. Stevedores is for us, they don't know anything.

Leopold Smart
I am blaming McFey and Pancho because they haven't presented this thing to the company.

And exactly what are the demands being made by the stevedores? Rivers laid them out for us.

Raymond Rivers
All stevedores over 65, try to pay off those men by Friday. All the wires and cables that are not good out at the pier head, we want those changed by next week Monday. Stevedores are required to put in 250 ton of sugar on a two-gang -that's what they will get after this. Anything over the tonnage, stevedores want a reward, bonus, or an incentive. Stevedores want our sugar checks every shift, not every week. Stevedores want their food deliver tea, dinner, tea. Stevedores are supposed to get their advance every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We want these things back now. All stevedores should be insured by the end of the month; we want our eight years of retroactive money. We want our first payment by July, the second payment by September and the third payment by November.

According to Leopold Smart and Rivers, if those demands are not met, there will be some sort of industrial action.

Leopold Smart
We are in this position to die. I am telling the young people, this is a different era.

Raymond Rivers
We need to get everything in order and I am saying that the latest we will talk to you is by July; after July the containers will shut down, that's our ultimatum towards the Port Of Belize.

The first group of stevedores went in at about 6am yesterday, but instructions were to go slow. We were later told that CWU president Antonio Gonsalez is out of the country but we spoke to general secretary James Mcfoy who told us that the CWU has sanctioned the industrial action taken by the stevedores.

James Mcfoy, General Secretary, CWU
I spoke to them and I told them that we hadn't received a counter-proposal. They said that they sent me a letter, and I told them that the letter was not a counter-proposal. The letter is just basically saying to the union that they aren't in any financial position that they can this or that. That is not negotiating; that is not in good faith, you are blanketing the entire thing immediately. You signed saying that you respect the union and that there will be a procedure for us to deal with the matters at hand, from the old owners - we expected that from you.


Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline


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.


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