Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
#509747 - 12/08/15 03:21 AM Stevedores’ Spontaneous Strike  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,953
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Christmas Cargo Ship Sails

The last time we reported on the stevedores at the Port of Belize - they were still trying to get their Collective Bargaining Agreement finalized. That was in October and at the end of it all both sides agreed that they would continue to negotiate. It perhaps seemed like another tedious turn in a negotiation that's been going on for years, but there seemed to be renewed resolve and it seemed like maybe the Christian Workers Union and the Port of Belize would actually work it out. Well, not quite - today the stevedores staged a spontaneous strike shutting down all operations at the port - putting all Christmas cargo on instant pause. Guy Neal, a member of the CWU negotiating team told us why they had to take action this time.

Guy Neal, Negotiating Team, CWU
"The issue is that we had a thing signed with the CEO of Port Mr. Arturo Vasquez and we got everything signed up and all of a sudden when we had the meeting on the 3rd, he backtracked and its the retirement for me and for all the stevedores who went and who is presently working. And if we let that go like that, there will be nothing in our pockets at the end of the day. So we are working for nothing basically. We are doing this dangerous work and it's a work that we have to do in any kind of weather basically; rain, wind or whatever."

Courtney Weatherburne
"It seemed like it was a level playing field and everyone was on board. So what the issue now? Why did he retract? What is he saying to you all?"

Guy Neal, Negotiating Team, CWU
"We have no idea. Basically it was going in the right direction. But to backtrack on something that you signed for including myself - we just can't live with that. So it's just paper every time and look how long they have control of us - from the 12 December 2004 and we cannot get a CBA - collective bargaining agreement signed."

Courtney Weatherburne
"I know that is of course the main issue, having that CBA signed."

Guy Neal, Negotiating Team, CWU
"We are demanding that he goes back to what he says. That's what we are demanding. And then we move on again from there and hopefully we don't have any more obstacles. But we can't move."

When we spoke with PORT CEO Arturo Vasquez, he said he didn't retract anything he had previously said regarding the retirement or pension plan. Vasquez said it's a huge and very costly misunderstanding.

Courtney Weatherburne
"The last time we covered this story we were in this office again, but on a more positive note. You all were optimistic about the negotiations. You were very optimistic about the negotiations and going forward in terms of looking at the memorandum of understanding, looking at trying to finalize the CBA. But we are here today, a group of stevedores they stage a strike. Operations pretty much shut down here at the Port. Could you comment? Tell us about how this affects greatly the operations here at the Port?"

Arturo "Tux" Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize
"Unfortunately we are here in a situation where I as the head of the board are unable to tell you really the real reason why the union has called a strike. First of all I don't know whether it's an official strike by the union or if it's a strike only by the stevedores or this gang that is work this shift. We have been having our negotiations as schedule. The last one we had was on the 3rd and in that negotiations they left with some information that I would have expected that they would have come back to say whether it was in favor or not. Now I was surprised at 11:00AM this morning I got to understand that this gang in on strike. Now I have to assume what the reasons are. But I should not be assuming when we are in the middle of the negotiations. I would have expected the union to come back to me. Because we are negotiating as I said as schedule. If they come back and they could have said to us we took the information back, we are not in agreement, let's continue to negotiate. I have to say now that we are held hostage."

Courtney Weatherburne
"He said that you all signed on to documents and some recommendations were made and that now you have retracted certain statements that you have made specifically looking at retirement and I believe pension. But their main thing was the retirement plan that you simply said in the meeting the 3rd, that oh okay, I just said that to appease the stevedores and it's not going to happen. So they're infuriated because they are saying that you went back on something or agreement that you all signed on to and promise. Could you comment on that?"

Arturo "Tux" Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize
"First of all we agreed in our negotiating framework that we will not disclose the information that we are dealing with. So I cannot go into the details. But all I will say is that there is nothing that I have said to them that I have now taken back. Perhaps they did not understand. But it is very simple that what we had agreed on, we had agreed on an increase pension moving forward. They are claiming that I have said that it would been something retroactive back to 2004. Now, financially the Port is unable to handle such a cost. So it is something that I would not have been able to agree to. But agree for it going forward. I am assuming at this point that that is the situation. As I said the union as a negotiating team has not been back to me after the 3rd to say to me what was taken to their stevedores and what was agreed or disagreed with."

Vasquez also told us that this strike has MAJOR implications on the overall operations at the Port. He forwarded us an email that was sent to the Port from Caribbean Shipping, warning, quote: "if the strike is not resolved by 6:00 this evening Belize local time, the Caribe Navigator will sail (with the Belize cargo on board)." This seriously affects the merchants who are waiting for their cargo, customs which I waiting for revenue, and disrupts the entire shipment schedule. But when we spoke to CWU president Audrey Matura Sheppard on her way to meet with CEO Vasquez this evening, she said that's not her fault nor her duty to manage the affairs of the Port and that the stevedores are simply tired of being pushed around.

Audrey Matura - Shepard, President - CWU
"What happens, we've been in negotiation with the Port and I think its negotiation in good faith and unfortunately we had reached an agreement over their retire/pension scheme. It was clear that the issue would have been retroactive since 2004. We moved on and when we were discussing other issues Mr. Tux who chairs the negotiating team for the Port then threw in - like the guys were asking so when will the retroactive money for those have not been paid and he then indicated like this thing is not really - they won't get anything and what he explained was that those who have gone will not be getting anything - which we were taken aback, because it was always to be retroactive to everybody. So I said to him, we won't address it then, I'll go back and we will come and we will talk. We spoke to him about it and then it got worse than we realize. He is saying that it's not even retroactive to those who are here - the 4% that we agreed on."

"Now it is a sad situation. I won't go into details, but what it has shown to us is that we are negotiating with people you can't trust. So we have to record everything in detail. We came here in good faith and what we realize that that day the Port would have said anything just to get those guys back to work."

Courtney Weatherburne
"We spoke to him just now and he is saying, 1) that it's basically a misunderstanding of what the agreement was, because he is saying that it wasn't retroactive and that the Port can't even afford that - being in receivership and, 2) that this was a hostile approach that you all were in negotiations. It was going pretty fine. The last time we reported on this story both sides were optimistic or well at least his side. But he is saying that he did not retract anything that was said in the meeting and that it just had to be some misunderstanding in terms of what was agreed on."

Audrey Matura - Shepard, President - CWU
"There is absolutely no way. You all make sense out of nonsense. Absolutely no way those stevedores would have agreed to anything that wasn't retroactive. You've waited for 11 years to try and resolve and issue and then you said oh, forget those 11 years and we will start from this point forward, for one of the most critical benefit, your pension. Come on. Let's make sense out of nonsense. What this has really proven is that when their back is against the wall he will say anything and you have to now read the fine print when it comes to management."

So, again both parties differ on what was agreed in terms of the retirement or pension plan for the stevedores and that will now further stall negotiations on the CBA. Vasquez told us that in order to move forward the stevedores must go back to work, even if it's a go slow - but operations must continue. In regards to the cargo bound for Belize, well…that ship has sailed. Vasquez confirmed to us a while ago that it has departed with all the Belize cargo on it. Vasquez told us this makes history because since he has been at the Port he hasn't received any letter or warning like the one he got from Caribbean Shipping, and apart from that NO vessel has ever been sent back without delivering its cargo. When we left the Port of Belize after 6 this evening Shepherd along with the stevedores and CEO Vasquez were meeting. We will follow up to see what came out of that meeting.

Channel 7

#509773 - 12/08/15 03:25 PM Re: Stevedores’ Spontaneous Strike [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,953
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
Ham and turkey scarce for Christmas?

Stevedores were to report to work at 10:30 a.m. today to unload a ship that had docked at the Port of Belize Ltd., which contained Christmas goodies such as hams and turkeys, but instead of showing up to work this morning, the stevedores converged in front of the Port, where they held a demonstration.

Guy Neal, a foreman for the stevedores, who is on the negotiation team, told Amandala that their ire, which prompted the demonstration, arose from concerns over their retirement benefits.

Indeed, today’s industrial action by the stevedores was a part of their ongoing fight for fair benefits from their employer, they say. They took a stand and were not moved, even after learning that the ship was scheduled to return to Miami today, and it would depart even if it was not unloaded.

Our information is that the ship did depart at 6:00 p.m. today without being unloaded.

On Thursday, October 1, 2015, the stevedores of the Port of Belize Limited held a press briefing at the Christian Workers Union (CWU) Secretariat at 107B Cemetery Road; there, it was revealed that with the stevedores’ input, they have put together a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). With the CBA in place, it seemed that progress would be made with the Port of Belize’s management.

Two months after that meeting, however, no progress has been made and it seems as if the Port of Belize is dragging its foot.

Neal said that the CBA has many points they would like to see addressed; for the moment, though, they are focusing on their retirement benefits, and that was why they were holding a demonstration today.

Neal said that the last time they took industrial action was on October 27, which was prompted by concerns over the same retirement benefits, and which resulted in a meeting with the Port of Belize.

In that meeting, it was agreed that the Port of Belize’s management would give 4% of their gross salary for the year and the stevedores would give 2% of their gross salary for the year towards their retirement, and that the arrangement would be retroactive for those who have already retired.

Neal said that on December 3, Arturo Vasquez of the Port of Belize recanted his agreement, stating that he did not agree to the retroactive pension, but only for the pension plan to start from the present, moving forward.

Neal showed us a letter that was addressed to a stevedore from the Port of Belize, in which the Port clearly agreed to the retroactive payment.

“This letter serves to inform you that a decision has been made for your retirement effective November 21, 2014. Upon the date of retirement, you will be receiving retirement benefit of three percent per year on your basic, overtime and double time salaries from time of employment with the Port – December 8, 2004,” stated the letter.

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, the president of the Christian Workers Union, told Amandala that at 5:30 p.m. they held a meeting with the Port of Belize’s management to try to reach an agreement, but to no avail. Shepherd said that, as a consequence of this, the strike remains in place.

The stevedores believe that they play a very crucial role, since their work of unloading containers of goods makes it possible for the consumers’ needs to be met.

The consumer may indeed be affected by the standoff between the two entities: Another ship is due on Wednesday, but if the problem is not resolved, those expecting these Christmas goodies from abroad may not get them. Regarding ham and turkey products, it is not known if the local market can fill the gap.

The significance of the stevedores’ role may soon be realized by this industrial action, and just perhaps, the Port of Belize’s management will finally address their concerns fully.


#509774 - 12/08/15 03:41 PM Re: Stevedores’ Spontaneous Strike [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,416
SimonB Offline
SimonB  Offline
There goes Christmas.

#509782 - 12/09/15 04:48 AM Re: Stevedores’ Spontaneous Strike [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,953
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Could Port Strike Mean No Turkey On Your Plate?

And that old saying about the elephants fighting and only the grass getting trampled holds true in this case - except it's not the grass getting trampled, it's more like the turkey on your table. This year, tens of thousands of pounds of turkey will be imported - and that's because local turkey producers did not go into full production mode this year, because of the Avian Influenza scare. So, Quality Poultry Products for example has 5 refrigerated containers with two hundred thousand pounds of Butterball turkeys waiting at the port in Santo Tomas Guatemala. But the agent won't put it on the ship unless they get a guarantee that the Port of Belize will be operational and able to off load the ship. And, right now, that is not forthcoming. So, that means Quality Poultry's turkeys - which could end up being the turkey on your table - is held in the balance. We spoke to the general manager of quality Poultry about his costly dilemma:

Raymond Barkman, GM - Quality Poultry Products
"Well obviously there is a lot at stake here. We have imported turkeys on there. We have 40,000 broiler eggs on that ship and so yes it affects us severely. And this one even more so because we have turkeys on it which we are out of. There are so many people banking on these turkeys for giveaways and lunch and meals and everything."

Jules Vasquez
"How long can you all wait for this container?"

Raymond Barkman, GM - Quality Poultry Products
"Well we cant. I mean the damage has been done. There is almost 40,000 eggs that are going back to Miami. The damage is done as being on the ship and obviously the turkeys, it takes a little while to get everything going organized and obviously we want these turkeys out for Christmas right. We need it immediately. Everyone is crying for turkeys."

Jules Vasquez
"So, any way this is resolved, you are likely to lose something."

Raymond Barkman, GM - Quality Poultry Products
"Whichever way around it goes, I will lose. Because when this happens what I see is price raise. Of course we take the hit. The public doesn't feel the money. You just move on and forget right. Come on guys, this is asking for a price increase in product. This hurts the private sector so much, the Belizean economy - everything."

Barkman said if the shipment does not come, it could cost him half a million dollars. He told us that if there is no resolution, he is investigating the possibility of getting another shipment and sending it through Mexico and then bringing it by road to Belize.

Seaboard, the agent which is bringing in Barkman's turkeys - says it has a total of 65 containers - mostly CHRISTMAS stuff - stuck in Santo Tomas waiting for a resolution to the Port dispute.

Port Operations Remain At Standstill

< Operations at the Port of Belize remain at a standstill as the standoff continues between the Port Management and the Christian Workers Union. As we told you last night, the stevedores went on strike yesterday - shutting down all operations at the port. The stevedores claim that Port CEO Arturo Vasquez retracted what he had promised concerning their retirement and pension plan. According to the stevedores, the agreement was for a retroactive payment going back to 2004 but Vasquez says that wasn't what was agreed, and that the Port simply can't afford that. Today Vasquez told us what came out of their late evening meeting yesterday and what action he has taken going forward.

Arturo "Tux" Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize
"There were separate meetings. I think when we had the first interview we had already met with the Christian Workers Union where we had tried every effort to get them back to work so we can continue with the ongoing negotiations. That was not successful and then as a result we had already advised the Labour Commissioner and the Port Commissioner and also the Police Commissioner as to the situation. So really what we had later on yesterday was a meeting with the Labour Commissioner and the Port Commissioner and the police. As you know the ship has sailed as they said. There were some discussions as to whether the ship was going to return, as to whether the police would have taken it on an illegal action, but the shipping agent had decided that it had gone. So that was it. They were not prepared to turn back. But I believe that in the future, there is quite a possibility that there has to be an alternative as to what would happen when we have a situation like this. That is something that the Port Commissioner has agreed that they need to look into and to establish some sort of alternative to when you have a situation like this. The port has since written to the Labour Commissioner asking for intervention for them to see how they could resolve that situation. The situation we find ourselves in is that we are in the middle of a negotiation, good negotiation I must say and it seems to us despite the fact that in all our discussions and in all our documentation that we have signed between the Christian Workers Union and the Port of Belize is that we will try to make every effort for strikes to be minimal. Why? Because strike does not help the negotiating process. It does not. There is absolutely no way that we can be expected to continue proper negotiation if in fact we are being held at ransom so to speak - as hostages so to speak. That's something that we have discusses in many meetings, for us to make sure that we try to keep the strike as a minimum. Obviously, there is a discrepancy in what we have negotiated. That is obvious. So that requires further discussions, further negotiations. But you cannot have further negotiations if you have a gun to my head. So that is just not possible. It is not."

Now apart from this strike stalling negotiations - it also gravely affects the business operations at the port. Last night at around 6:19 a ship sailed without delivering its cargo because the stevedores refused to work. Vasquez says it's the first time something like this has happened since he has been at the Port. Now the Port must look at a backup plan to try and deal with situations such as these.

Arturo "Tux" Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize
"What happened yesterday bring something else to light. The fact that there is a significant business effect when it comes to this for a ship to move off with cargo. I am still not clear as to really what all the effects of that will be. Granted the cargo will return I am assuming. But still there could be loss of business, there could be loss of several things with it and I believe at this point the port will proceed in trying to do a quantum as to what the loss is in what happened yesterday. We have to do that and we must provide that to the Port Authority."

Courtney Weatherburne
"Looking at the issue at hand concerning the retirement and pension plan, we also ask her about that and she is saying the complete opposite, that there is no way that the stevedores would have signed on to anything if it wasn't retroactive and that's pretty much the issue and I asked her, I guess it's as you said a blatant misunderstanding of the agreement."

Arturo "Tux" Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize
"I am glad that you asked that question, because I heard her saying it as well and I would think that people who are not familiar with the negotiations would think that there is nothing being paid right now. The public needs to know that there is a pension being paid. What we have negotiated is an increase to that pension. So anybody who retires right now is getting a pension. The port is paying a pension. What has been negotiated since was to see if we could increase it. What was also negotiated, in any pension agreement as you know, pension has contributions by both employee and employer. That was also discuss and that was also agreed. So they are going from a 3% which they are getting now to a 6%. Which means that we are doing 4% and they are now contributing 2%. As you know pension is something that builds over years. So what she said yesterday would really would sound - I think she said making sense out of nonsense I think. But it has be cleared that there is a pension currently in place. What we negotiated is an increase to that pension. So, I am glad you asked that question."

Another ship is coming in later this week and Vasquez is urging the stevedores to return to work and to the negotiating table so what happens last night does not happen again. The Belize Chamber of Commerce is also pleading for operations to resume at the Port. They sent out a press release saying "This ill-advised strike action has costly consequences for the entire economy in terms of lost sales, lost government revenue, and lost income, particularly during the Christmas season and thus should not be treated trivially." It ends off by saying "the BCCI urges the negotiating parties to return to the bargaining table and simultaneously resume operations in order that economic activity may continue. We contacted CWU president Audrey - Matura Shepherd today for comment and she said via text concerning Vasquez, quote: "I will listen to what he says. We at CWU know that in good faith we have negotiated and agreed in principle to a pension plan which clearly carried no weight as Port is showing their word is not their bond."

Channel 7

#509817 - 12/10/15 05:00 AM Re: Stevedores’ Spontaneous Strike [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,953
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Port of Belize And Stevedores Still At Standoff, Cargo Ships Delayed

The dispute between the Port of Belize and the stevedores continues tonight and it seems it’s only getting worse. As we reported last night, Port CEO Arturo Vasquez has turned to the Labor commissioner to try and solve this issue but it doesn’t seem it will be that easy. This afternoon the CWU president Audrey Matura Shepherd and the Stevedores met outside the Port and by the looks of things – the stevedores are really getting fed up of the back and forth. Shepherd told us today that they are willing to go back to work and to negotiate BUT, they made it clear – they will not settle for anything less than what they say was agreed on.

Audrey Matura Shepherd - President, CWU

"We began negotiating what we call the retirement/pension benefit and we thought that went well. It took us about 5 or 6 hours that day but we ironed out, we asked the questions and we worked it out. The reason we had to do that is because the guys would not go back to work unless that was agreed on. We thought we had something concrete, we didn't write down all the details but we had an one page agreement in principle as to the amounts. Now throughout that negotiation it was clear cut that what we were dealing with is something that is retroactive to 2004; because there has never been an agreement."

Courtney Weatherburne

"But how is there this huge misunderstanding because when we spoke again with CEO Arturo Vasquez he said that there is no way that the port could ever agree to something like that because they can't afford it; so how come there's this huge misunderstanding of the agreement?"

Audrey Matura Shepherd - President, CWU

"I'm sorry but he's outright dishonest because I am telling you, there's absolutely no way the stevedores round that table would have made him get away with that."

'You know what he told us at a meeting before that? That he was prepared to say and do anything to get those men back to work. This is the price he's paying now. Now you are asking me, as the president of CWU, to tell over 120 men or more that you've worked for over 11 years and you can't expect a decent pension? Because what that 3 percent works out for some of those who have left already is only 800 dollars. After 11 years only 800 dollars, 1,000 dollars the most."

Courtney Weatherburne

"That's another issue he brought up as well in the press conference yesterday. He said that there is an existing pension plan and it has been increased from 3 percent to 6 percent. And he is saying that at least that is some benefit and the negotiation now is just to better that existing pension plan."

Audrey Matura Shepherd - President, CWU

"That is so dishonest. I even asked him that in the meeting, the last meeting I had. I said so, I've never heard about a plan, where is it? I went through all the documents we had, all the minutes, everything we have and there's none. Because in the past what they did, everything that was agreed in peace they signed. In 2004 was the only time there was a mention of a pension."

Courtney Weatherburne

"You mentioned ma’am the price he has to pay. Another issue that has been brought up and I'm sure you all and the stevedores know this that the strike and pretty much leading to the shutdown of the entire operations here at the port has serious grave business economic implications. Looking at the story we aired last night of Quality Poultry, many people pretty much the say, you the stall Christmas now, they won't be able to get their Turkeys. Quality Poultry told us about their plight as well involving this issue. Is there any way the stevedores are considering this? Or they're not really looking at the bigger business economic picture?"

Audrey Matura Shepherd - President, CWU

"Well first I want to say that our intention is not to make anybody inconvenient. The stevedores do apologise for anything that is collateral damage. That's definitely not the intention. And I understand you're saying that we're stalling Christmas but for 11 years their Christmas has been stalled."

Courtney Weatherburne

"Will the stevedores come back to work? Or will they continue to striking until CEO Vasquez confirms that the retirement/pension benefit is retroactive to 2004?"

Audrey Matura Shepherd - President, CWU

"It's very simple, it's in his hands. The ball is really in his court. He knows in his heart of heart and when he looks in the mirror that he has been dishonest. And I can say it publicly because I've said it privately to him. The ball is in his hand, he who's holding this nation at ransom because he was prepared to do any trickery to get gang number 6 back to work."

When we contacted CEO Vasquez, he told us that there should have been a meeting between the CWU and the labor commissioner this afternoon at 3:30 but that the CWU did not show up. And as we said things look to be getting worse – at this hour, police officers have been deployed to the area to maintain order – and when our camera left there 5 minutes ago, the stevedores and the cops were both keeping watch. Unconfirmed Reports to our newsroom suggest that the Port may be bringing in stevedores from outside – and the police could be there to ensure their safe entry. Reports tell us that there is a CFS cargo ship harboured at English Caye waiting to offload at the Port of Belize.

Channel 7

#509849 - 12/11/15 05:14 AM Re: Stevedores’ Spontaneous Strike [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,953
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Uneasy Truce Reached at Port: Stevedores Return To Work

When we left you last night, it appeared that the rift between the Stevedores and the Management of the Port of Belize was widening. The management and the Christian Workers Union, which is the bargaining agent for the waterfront workers, continued with meetings up until close to midnight last night.

Well, those discussions, plus another few hours of talks today have resulted in the Stevedores agreeing to go back to work at 5 p.m. this evening to take cargo related to a ship that arrived into harbour this evening.

It appears that right now, there is great distrust between the two parties who only 2 months ago, were having productive negotiations. So, to get to an uneasy truce and the return to some normalcy at the port took a lot of back and forth.

7News was there this evening when CWU President Audrey Matura-Shepherd emerged and announced that the stevedores would postpone their strike. Here's how she explained why it was delayed to the detriment of businesses:

Audrey Matura Shepherd - President, CWU
"We had agree to come back to work on 3 points. So, the 3 points was simply that we will come and work, but the port has to be willing to go back to the table on the issue of the retirement pension until we have the actual deed. We don't want any trickery anymore. We want we get in details. The second one was once they agree to that, the workers will go back and work from this morning. The third one was that going back to work did not mean that the workers gave up their right to strike at any time, which is a right they have. It was at that point we were always about to sign an agreement last night when port as usual brings in some new element and they wanted us to agree that if they would strike, that the workers have to give them 3 days' notice that they will strike. And that is not required. We are not essential service. Stevedores are not essential services. So that's where things broke down and we came back this morning."

"This morning, the position after consulting with the stevedores is that we are still willing to work, but we are not prepared to give you any notice. You have not given us anything, you have shown no good faith. And so we went through a whole series of discussions again. Again, the union threw out options of things we can do to be fair. But what was ironic, we went a step further and said okay let us try to compromise a bit and what they came back with to us was that okay we want you all agree that we could lock out you all workers and replace them with someone else. And I said no. That is not happening. I don't think they understand that work for these men is like their whole life. So that will not happen."

"So we had to come back and consult with our workers, because we decided let's take a different approach; we won't sign anything. We won't go into all these details where you are trying to take away our rights and so what we proposed to them and we came and consult with our workers is that the workers could go back to work with only one condition, that we go back to negotiate the retirement benefit until the end. It between that, all normal relations maintained. All their rights remain intact. We've not signed away anything."

If you've been following this industrial dispute, the issue is over pension and retirement benefits which the stevedores claim that the Port agreed to and backpedaled on at the last minute.

The main point of contention is who would be covered under this pension/retirement benefit, and according to the CWU and the Stevedores, it was to be retroactive to 2004. The Port claims that they did not agree to any retroactivity, and that it cannot afford such a scheme.

Well, 7News has acquired a copy of the agreement signed between the Matura-Shepherd Led CWU, and Ports Receiver Arturo "Tux" Vasquez.

It reads, quote, "Upon reaching the age of 60, stevedores' retirement benefit/payment will be 6%...(PBL 4%, along with the individual's own contribution of 2%..

After yearly medical examinations starting at the age of 60, for which stevedores may not be physically fit to work, or upon reaching the age of 65, stevedores will be paid for his services from his sixtieth retirement paymement to date of final retirement at the same rate of 6%.

This agreement will take effect upon execution of the collective bargaining agreement between the parties… End Quote.

As you, saw, there is no retroactivity clause, as the CWU President and the stevedores is claiming. So, did they commit a great blunder in omitting it in the signed agreement? That's what we asked Matura-Shepherd today:

Audrey Matura Shepherd - President, CWU
"When we were in discussion it was clear cut that it was from 2004 it was retroactive. We even discussed how it will affect those who have left and everything and we sign off a very simple agreement that shows our intention. And we went about negotiating other issues. The second issue was the one important to them was the working hours. It was during that negotiation that per chance Mr. Vasquez said, when one of the guys kept inquiring about the people who have left whether they will get their benefits and he said they have nothing else to get. And we were taken aback and we said we will adjust this again and we did that, he says well not only do they not have anything to get. The other have nothing to get, meaning nothing to get retroactively, only forward. Then we said you know that's not what we agreed on."

Daniel Ortiz
"In hindsight, do you concede that it was a bad move not to include this retroactivity clause in the document signed on November 2nd?"

Audrey Matura Shepherd - President, CWU
"No. Because the document was clear that it was only in principle we are agreeing on the quantity. So, had we known that that's how they would operate, then that's where the hindsight would come. I think where we went wrong is that we believe in good faith, that when we discussed and we say let's go put everything from the past behind and I try to convince the stevedores that no man, this process could work. There is a professional way. You have to give the people an opportunity. Don't be saying that its distrust - I convinced them of that. And when it happen to me that I had the stab in my back, then what will I say. I have to admit to them that well you all are right, so we have to do things differently. And that is what we concluded today, that on that issue we won't stop until we put every detail. We've gone as far and they've accepted that now we record the meetings."

As you saw in our story, there were police officers in abundance to keep the peace, and unconfirmed information to our newsroom was that the Port may have been considering bringing in stevedores from outside - and the police were there to ensure their safe entry.

Fortunately, there was not need for that this time, but apart from the peace keeping police was senior cop turned attorney, Chester Williams. He stepped in to act as a mediator, and this evening we asked him if that was really necessary. Here's what he had to say:

Sr. Supt Chester Williams, Commander, Eastern Division Southside
"As an attorney I have experienced and trained in mediation, because its a part of our legal training. And I use my experience and my knowledge as a mediator to facilitate the process between both parties to try and arrive at a solution to the problem."

"We heard last night that you had the riot squad as standby?"

Sr. Supt Chester Williams, Commander, Eastern Division Southside
"You must understand that in a situation where there is some degree of dispute or demonstration, that's a part of the police standard operating procedures. We must always be in a state of readiness. It does not mean that because we have those things in place, means that they will be use. We try to use diplomacy first before we decide to use any other means."

"Do you feel as though you were needed here?"

Sr. Supt Chester Williams, Commander, Eastern Division Southside
"Yes, I think that my presence was in deed needed to facilitate the process between the parties and as the mediator I would make suggestions and give the parties an opportunity to lay the issues on the table and see how they could find a resolution to that issue and when it come at a deadlock then I would make suggestion and see how we move forward."

Matura-Shepherd says that the union's position is that they will return to the drawing board on the negotiations over the retirement and pension packages for the stevedores.

Channel 7

#509931 - 12/15/15 05:03 AM Re: Stevedores’ Spontaneous Strike [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,953
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Port of Belize Back To Normal

The stevedores are back to work and port operations have returned to normal. As we have reported, the stevedores were on strike last week - they were demanding that Port CEO Arturo Vasquez grant them their retirement/pension benefits retroactive to 2004 but Vasquez clearly stated that there is no way that can happen. So that led to a week long back and forth, failed meetings and proposals…Until both sides finally agreed to compromise and get back to negotiations. Today we spoke to CEO Vasquez and he assured us that everything has normalized at the port and that he hopes it stays that way.

Arturo "Tux" Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize
"As you know everything came back to normal on Friday and we have been able to work in harmony for all the ships that have come in so far. As you know the port and the CWU were having some sort of negotiations, we are trying to get this thing going and at the end of the day I think we decided to proceed without signing anything in the document at all. So, the only agreement that we had is that we continue to negotiate on the 15th which is tomorrow - which is a day that was scheduled before and I would assume based on the previous conversation we had that the meeting would about the pension. We had a boat waiting outside English Caye. That boat managed to come in on Friday at around 4 I think and I think stevedore work started as plan around 5, then I think there was another boat on Saturday and there is one today or last night. Am not too certain what time they came in. I know we have worked all the ships since that. Again, like I said it's really just for us to have agreed that they will come back to work and we will just go back to negotiations on the 15th. Of course you know what the contentions were, that we were not prepared to backdate the pension because that was never the agreement. So I am expecting that that's where the conversation will continue tomorrow in our meeting. I am hoping that we can continue negotiating and try to keep the strike at the minimum. I have kept asking for some notice period when it comes to striking because from my side, it is very difficult for me to continue to negotiate in a strike situation."

So while the port officials and the stevedores are back on a hopeful and optimistic note, the incident with the cargo ship that sailed without delivering the cargo still needs to be addressed. CEO Vasquez says they are still assessing the financial losses and the impact it had on businesses.

Arturo "Tux" Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize
"Those cargo I am sure was expected to come back under the next voyage."

Courtney Weatherburne
"So in terms of the business or economic perspective of that cargo ship, how is that? How are you going to regulate that? I am sure there is still a major loss, but how is it on the business side of that particular situation?"

Arturo "Tux" Vasquez, CEO, Port of Belize
"We are still in the middle of quantifying all of that cost and I think that that has to be looked at for sure because there were some kind of loss there and that is something that I think will perhaps need to be looked at later on and see if there is any claims and the claim could come to the port, it could come to the Christian Workers Union, it could come to anybody. So those are things I think if there is any consequence to that - that is certainly something that we can't throw through the window."

Vasquez told us that he will meet with the CWU tomorrow and on the 22nd and that the priority is to agree and finalize the retirement/pension plan for the stevedores. And what about the five containers of butterball turkeys imported by Quality Poultry Products? Last we told those were stuck at the Santo Tomas port in Guatemala. Well, they arrived in country on Friday and are expected to reach stores tomorrow. As we reported, turkeys had to be imported this year - as much as 200 thousand pounds - because the Avian Influenza scare stopped local producers from producing.

Channel 7

#509944 - 12/15/15 02:04 PM Re: Stevedores’ Spontaneous Strike [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,953
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Government will pass legislation to make stevedores an essential service provider

Last Monday, the stevedores employed by the Port of Belize Limited went on a three-day strike after they and their union, the Christian Workers Union (CWU), failed to reach an agreement with the Port on a retroactive retirement plan.

Tonight, one week later, things have returned to normal at the Port, through which the bulk of goods that are imported into the country must pass.

Arturo “Tux” Vasquez, the receiver and CEO of the Port of Belize Limited, told Amandala tonight that everything is back to normal at the port during this busy holiday season.

Vasquez said that the next scheduled round of negotiations between the management of the Port and the CWU will take place tomorrow, Tuesday, at 1:30 p.m.

“We do need to settle the pension scheme,” Vasquez offered.

Amandala asked Vasquez if he is aware that there is a move afoot on the part of the Barrow administration to pass a Statutory Instrument that would make Port workers come under the Settlement of Dispute (Essential Services) Act.

Vasquez said that he was not aware of the move to bring the stevedores employed at the Port under the umbrella of the Essential Services Act, but he remarked that “it’s not a bad idea.”

“Stevedoring has to be an essential service,” Vasquez added.

“The union needs to give us some notice. I know they have the right to strike, but you can’t negotiate with a gun at your head,” Vasquez said.

Amandala attempted to speak to the CWU president Audrey Matura-Shepherd, but we were unsuccessful.


Portofino Resort- Now with a new BEACH BAR!!

Click for excellent scuba lessons with Elbert Greer!

Things to do

Daily News
Daily Weather

Classified Ads
San Pedro Sun
Ambergris Today
SP Town Council
Channel 7
Channel 5
Love FM
The Reporter
Caye Caulker

TV Newscasts
Radio Stations

Click for our
Search thousands of Belizean-only websites

Event Guides
Event Calendar
Specials & Events
Things to Do
iTravel Belize
Paradise Theater

San Pedro Scoop!
Tia Chocolate
My Beautiful Belize
I-Travel Belize
Belize Adventure
Belize Hub
Romantic Travel
Bound for Belize
Conch Creative
As The Coconuts Drop
More Blogs...
Search thousands of Belizean-only websites
Chaa Creek is an award-winning luxury Belize Resort, rated as one of the worlds best Eco Lodges. We are a pioneer in adventure travel to Belize since 1981!
White Sands Dive Shop - 5 Star PADI Dive Facility - Daily diving, SCUBA instruction and Snorkeling
Caribbean Inspired All Natural Condiments & Spice Blends, Over 100 are Gluten Free!
We manage a variety of homes, apartments, condos and commercial properties here on Ambergris Caye. Our minimum lease on ALL properties is six months.
Conch Shell Inn: All rooms are right on the beach in the heart of San Pedro, so within walking distance to anything and everything!!
Lil� Alphonse has snorkel equipment to fit anyone as well as Marine Park Tickets and flotation devices to assist those not as experienced.
Coastal Xpress offers a daily scheduled ferry run to most resorts, restaurants and private piers on the island of Anbergris Caye. We also offer  private and charter water taxi service.
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31
Cayo Espanto
Click for Cayo Espanto, and have your own private island
More Links
Click for exciting and adventurous tours of Belize with Katie Valk!
Mini Chat
Who's Online Now
1 registered members (1 invisible), 19 guests, and 9 spiders.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Statistics
Most Online1,262
Jun 10th, 2007 HELP! Visitor Center Goods & Services San Pedro Town Message Board Lodging Diving Fishing Things to Do History Maps Phonebook Belize Business Directory Picture of the Day

The opinions and views expressed on this board are the subjective opinions of Ambergris Caye Message Board members
and not of the Ambergris Caye Message Board its affiliates, or its employees.

Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.6.0