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GOB's Plan for The Port Is to Nationalize? #543787
07/30/20 04:46 AM
07/30/20 04:46 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 73,390
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

Marty  Online Happy OP

The Port of Belize remained closed for the 7th successive day today - and it's on the verge of causing a national crisis. Importers can't get their goods landed - and exporters can;can't get their products out. We told you last night about the CFS Pacora which has left Belize and is now on its way to Kingston, Jamaica - after sitting at anchor for 6 days, waiting for the port to re-open.

But it did not, and now the Pacora - with its 70 Belize-bound containers will have to, presumably, circle back, leaving government out of revenue, and merchants without their goods, which could lead to shortages on store shelves. Exporters also lost out on about 100 shipments which they were sending out.

And, there's no end in sight to this impasse between the management of the Port and the strike by the CWU. 7News has learned that another meeting between the sides was held today, facilitated by the Ministry of Labour. But, reliable sources tell us that too ended without any progress or resolution.

Reports say the Port is willing to resume negotiations on the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but wants the CWU to go back to work in the interim; while the CWU's stevedores say it will not go back to work until it has a CBA.

It's a real deadlock - and pressure is mounting on the government to resolve it because of the economic costs. One possible solution is to nationalise the Port. It's a very drastic step, which would pose myriad complications. But, speaking at a virtual press conference today, the Prime Minister said it is an option that's on the table:

Jules Vasquez, reporter
"Efforts at mediation has failed, is there any contemplation on the part of the government that nationalization may be a way to break the unpassed?"

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"All I'll say to sir is that has to be a consideration and I'll leave it there."

Jules Vasquez, reporter
"We know that every entanglement with the Ashcroft alliance ends in tears for the Government of Belize as it has over these many years. Is there any sense of once bitten, tenth shy or twelfth shy, maybe?"

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Ultimately, the situation dictates at the very least a contemplation of what you raised. Clearly this stalemate cannot continue. This of course has an effect on foreign exchange. We know and continue to say the position can't be optimum, can't be other than difficult challenging, this puts a further dent in our foreign exchange earnings. The stalemate, if ships can't be offloaded, some of them can perhaps go to Big Creek, but I don't know how much Big Creek is set up in terms of storage facilities and in terms of their ability to take all the containers that normally would be offloaded at the Belize City port, not sure what the situation is there, but you are talking about additional cost. So the chokehold, the strangle hold that is being exercise on the economy of this country, on the well-being of the citizenry of this country is not something that any government can contemplate with any kind of indifference. Nature of the action still to be determine. There is a hope that perhaps the 2 sides can come together, the minister of labour is making every effort to encourage them to try and settle their differences."

What Next For Port?

And while the PM prepares for yet another tangle with the Ashcroft Alliance, many want answers as to how the actual situation on the ground is playing out, and when we can expect the Port to re-open.

Those are questions we put to CWU president Mose Hyde, and yesterday he outlined the events of the last 7 days.

Mose Hyde, President, CWU
"The port is closed down after you had the security forces putting tear gas and rubber bullets on our members who were there. They established that it was a security threat and so Thursday and Friday the Port is officially closed. The Port is re-opened on Saturday, the port inquires about the availability of stevedores to resume working, they do so twice on Saturday and we respond to the Ministry of labor saying listen we are really perplexed as to the way forward because our members have just gone through a process that has really and truly broken all sense of trust. You cannot pretend as though last week did not happen and so when you have seen your employer treat a sister unit with that kind of disregard for their rights, treat the ministry of labour with the kind of disregard that they been treated with, see a living agreement be ignored and breached then you realize how vulnerable you are and that is what has happened to the stevedores."

Port of Belize Staff Weighs Its Options

And what about that sister unit, the staff of the Port of Belize? They watched with the nation as the stevedores who stood united with their cause were treated to tear gas and rubber bullets.

And while 36 of them have lost their jobs, those who survived the redundancy have had their full salaries restored, ending the much criticized 10% paycuts.

It's a move that CWU President calls classic divide and rule, but he sympathizes with the staff which is still deciding where they stand.

Mose Hyde, President, CWU
"We have not had the opportunity to have chorum with the staff who remain. We had a handful come by yesterday evening and they are in a very difficult place. The difficult place is that they have seen their reps and their fellow brothers and sisters pushed out in a most disgraceful fashion and then as a way of standing up in the defense of those members they saw what happened on Wednesday. At the same time these people have their responsibilities, their dependents, their bills, their families and they've been told come back to work. They are also now being told, in fact from late last week they were told we heard that the company intended to restore their 10% reduction. Somehow they try to put that as a sweetener. Its classic divide and rule to make sure that you have a conflict build up between those who survived the unlawful redundancy and those who did not. So the situation there is that you have a lot of our members who are doing soul searching to figure out what do I do, where do I stand."

"As a bargaining unit, that bad for you and the CWU and the employees."

Mose Hyde, President, CWU
"We understand these sentiments are human sentiments, these are as natural as anything, because that is where you have to make the decision. You have to look at where you are, you have to understand where your solidarity is, but we will hear from them, because that is our job. We want to hear from them to know where they are and when we do then we are able to say this is their position."

Channel 7

Re: GOB's Plan for The Port Is to Nationalize? [Re: Marty] #543820
07/31/20 05:44 AM
07/31/20 05:44 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 73,390
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

Marty  Online Happy OP
Lord Michael Ashcroft has written to the Prime Minister, Dean Barrow to address his remarks made yesterday with respect to the possible nationalization of the Port of Belize.
The letter can be viewed below.

Lord Michael Ashcroft comments on the possible nationalization of the Port of Belize

Hon. Dean Barrow
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
Office of the Prime Minister
3rd Floor,
Sir Edney Cain Building,
Cayo District Belize

July 30. 2020 Dear Prime Minister Re: Port of Belize ("POB")

I am writing to you with specific reference to your comments at the Government of Belize press conference yesterday with respect to the possible nationalisation of POB.

Waterloo Investment Holdings Limited ("WIHL") is a listed company on the Bermuda Stock Exchange and the owner of both British Caribbean Bank Limited and Private Investment Limited, the primary debt holders and creditors in the receivership of Port of Belize Limited; the licensed port operator and owner of the POI3 assets.

In the recent nationalisation of Belize Telemedia Limited ("BTL") the people of Belize ended up having to pay compensation to the former owners and debt holders of in excess of BZS580 million; as well as legal costs associated with more than 9 years of international litigation. The Universal Healthcare Services debt to the Belize Bank which has to-date involved more than 13 years of international litigation and associated legal costs, has resulted in the original liability of BZS20 million growing to in excess of BZS90 million. The nationalisation of the IBC and Shipping Registries and the recent Judgment in favour of the former managers of the Registries. BISL. will also likely result in a significant damages award against the Government. Moreover, the Judgment highlighted the overarching requirement that the Government of Belize afford investors fair and equitable treatment with respect to any nationalisation and for the handling of such to be in accordance with the standards demanded by the Rule of Law.

In the circumstances, it would therefore seem prudent before a further investor dispute crystalizes, which would invariably result in millions of dollars of wasted public money, that if the Government wishes to nationalise POB for a public purpose, then the parties should sit down together and try to agree a plan for the orderly transfer and handing over of the Port to the Government.

W II IL would even be prepared to assist with the process of framing the nationalisation legislation. so that it is not necessary. as was the case with 13TL, for the National Assembly to engage in repeated attempts of enacting suitable legislation to achieve the desired effect. This approach would also hopefully avoid the need for the Government to engage in illegal tactics, such as when the Belize Defence Force forcibly took control of BTL in the dead of night after the initial nationalisation legislation was found by the courts to be unconstitutional and unlawful.

WIHL has been advised that the nationalisation of POB would give rise to a claim under the UK-Belize Bilateral Investment Treaty. However, rather than draw out the process of valuation and the possibility of hefty accrued interest charges, the parties could simply agree to the arbitration of the claim under the Treaty with each party appointing its own expert. The claim is presently estimated to be in excess of USS85 million with interest accruing thereon from the date of nationalisation until full settlement of the claim.

The nationalisation would clearly need to be for a public purpose and not for political purposes as otherwise the nationalisation would fail for being unconstitutional and for not being in accordance with the Rule of Law requirements set out in the BISL Judgment. Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely that any foreign investor would invest in the Port until after the legal claim was settled.

The nationalisation would mean however, that the US$200 million port expansion development project planned for Port Loyola would no longer take place; which is a devastating loss not only for those who live on the southside of Belize City but the entire country of Belize. WIHL has spent millions of dollars of development costs advancing the project to the launch stage and procured valuable external funding for the entire project.

The Port has also undergone a transformation over the last few years with significant capital investment being made in the Port's operations and infrastructure; including more recently a new Terminal Operating System and the impending introduction of a new Maintenance Operating System. POB has also entered into a BZ$9 million contract with an international contractor to pave the container yard in accordance with international port standards.

It is also regTetful, that despite the requirements of the Essential Services Act and applicable labour laws, the stevedores have been allowed by the Ministry of Labour to continue with their illegal strike action resulting in significant consequential loss to the Port's bottom line as well as serious damage to the port infrastructure during these strike actions. The stevedores have also been allowed as a result of the Minister of Labour's failure to enforce compliance with the law, to hold the entire country to ransom with the shutdown of the port. In the midst of a serious pandemic, it is incredible that the Minister of Labour has failed to ensure that the Stevedores, as essential service providers, remained working so as to ensure that valuable food and medical supplies are allowed to enter the country.

I have copied this letter to the lion. Patrick Faber and the Hon. John Briceno, the Leaders of the UDP and PUP, one of whom will be Belize's next Prime Minister; so that they are fully apprised of the situation. The Members of the Board of WIHL and myself, would be happy to meet in person with yourself and/or with any other members of the Government, in order to address any desired nationalisation of the Port in a fair and equitable manner, and with the country's best interests at heart.

Yours sincerely

Rt. Hon. Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC
Hon. Patrick Faber, The Leader of the United Democratic Party
Hon. John Briceno, The Leader of the Peoples United Party

Re: GOB's Plan for The Port Is to Nationalize? [Re: Marty] #543827
07/31/20 08:36 AM
07/31/20 08:36 AM
Joined: Jul 2010
Posts: 1,465
San Pedro, Belize
Judyann H. Offline
Judyann H.  Offline
Wow... here we go again.... IMHO we have a capable and willing Benefactor who is prepared to support our Economic recovery... Come on Belize please let us learn by our own recent history. We can't afford another round of this.... Hoping the new PUP and UDP leaders can come together and do what's best for Belize.

My friends call me Judyann
Re: GOB's Plan for The Port Is to Nationalize? [Re: Marty] #543836
08/01/20 04:36 AM
08/01/20 04:36 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 73,390
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

Marty  Online Happy OP
Port Workers Return, Stevedores Sit Out, Wait on CBA

The Port of Belize is not receiving cargo ships yet, but it could open this weekend. However, the Port workers came off strike, and things did start to get moving today. Customs brokers were able to clear containers that had been sitting for over a week. Those brokers were also forced to pay storage fees for the days lost to the strike - costs which they say will ultimately be passed unto consumers.
Meanwhile, the Vanquish container vessel remains anchored off the coast of Belize City this evening, waiting for the stevedores to get back to work. The Port management, Shipping agents and importers are crossing their fingers, while talks continue at this hour between the Port of Belize and the Christian Workers Union. A press release from the CWU says, quote, "Stevedores in two unanimous votes, decided not to return to work without a signed CBA."

Those talks to hammer out that collective bargaining agreement started yesterday at 4:00 in the evening and continued until 2:30 in the morning. We are told much progress was made, and they resumed today at 1:00 pm at the Biltmore Hotel.

The best hope is that by midnight tonight - they can be close to finalising that collective bargaining agreement that has been unresolved for 16 years.

The union release says, quote, "CWU acknowledges that progress has been made. Erroneous reports of Stevedores resuming work might have been prompted by the decision taken by PBL Staff yesterday to return to work, as a good faith gesture. The PBL Staff decision includes two conditions: that PBL reinstates the 29 CWU Members who were terminated on July 22, 2020; and that PBL concludes a new CBA for its Staff within 21 days, on August 28, 2020." End quote.

PM Says Nationalisation Off The Table, For Now

And with that measured progress - the Prime Minister today said that with this sign of a possible breakthrough in negotiations, he's backing down on taking over the Port:

PMís Says Ashcroft Letter "Revealing"

And so while the Prime Minister is closely watching things at the Port of Belize, it seems Michael Ashcroft is closely watching him.

Today, when asked to respond to Ashcroft's cautionary letter about nationalising the Port, the PM seemed to revel in Lord Ashcroft's response to his suggestion of a possibly port takeover:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow- Prime Minister
"My God, did it produce a rise out of the good Lord Ashcroft. He really was provoked and perhaps he said more than he should have. A matter for him, I will leave that judgement for him to make. But we are enlightened as to the structure governing the administration of the port. Inquiring minds have long wanted to know who owns the port. As far as we are concerned it is still the Port of Belize Limited. The Port of Belize Limited is in receivership but the receivership doesn't own the Port, doesn't own the assets. And when this man starts to talk about if we were to do anything about the port and warn us that the nationalization of the Port of Belize Limited would give rise to a claim under the UK-Belize bilateral investment treaty. But they don't own the port. So, what are they going to claim? That we have deprived them of the ownership of something that they don't own? This man needs to be careful."

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