Port Remains Closed, Face To Face Talks Underway
The Port of Belize was closed again today as workers remain on strike -
but there is some progress between the two sides. Port of Belize
representatives and the Christian Workers Union agreed to sit down and
talk face to face this evening. They did so at the Biltmore Best
Western dining room - which was designated as a neutral location.
Our cameras were at the Biltmore just around 4:00 this evening as we
saw Godfrey Smith and Tux Vasquez enter for the Port of Belize and Mose
Hyde and a number of stevedores for the CWU. The meeting started at
4:30 and was reportedly still going at news time. Right now, it is too
early to tell if there were any breakthroughs.
And, the reason they were actually able to meet is that the Port of
Belize made a major concession to the union. This morning the Port
announced that it has withdrawn its request for the stevedores to
resume work while they negotiate the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
And that same release says the Port has requested a meeting with the
CWU and the Labour Department to discuss the CBA.
And while that happens in the foreground, in the background, government
is weighing its options on nationalising the port. The Prime Minister
floated the idea publicly at a press conference yesterday:
"Efforts at mediation has failed, is there any contemplation on the part of
the government that nationalization maybe a way to break unpassed?"
Rt. Hon Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"Well I'll say to you sir is that has to be a consideration and I leave it
But, Lord Ashcroft has made a pre-emptive strike. In a dark two page
letter to the Prime Minister today, Ashcroft refers to the possible
nationalisation of the Port. He notes the hundreds of millions dollars
paid and owing to his companies for compensation,
and advises, quote, "
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." End
Ashcroft's letter also warns, quote,
the nationalisation of POB would give rise to a claim under the
UK-Belize Bilateral Investment Treatyâ€¦.The claim is presently estimated
to be in excess of US$85 million with interest accruing thereon from
the date of nationalisation until full settlement of the claim." end
Notably, Ashcroft also copied the thousand word letter to
Patrick Faber and John Briceno - who, he implies, would inherit any
decision to nationalise. We expect that the Prime Minister will respond
publicly tomorrow when he hosts a press conference to Launch the
Economic Recovery Strategy for Belize.
And while all this percolates, the bottom line is Belize's sovereign
Port remains closed, with no imports coming in, and no exports going
out. As we told you the CFS Pacora sailed out yesterday without
delivering or taking anything. We are told the PACORA usually brings in
all the cargo that transits through Jamaica, this includes goods from
China and Europe. And, now, we have confirmed that the Hyde Shipping
vessel, MV Vanquish will arrive in Belize's water at 6:00 tomorrow
morning. So now, we have to wait and see if the stevedores will offload
it after this evening's meetings. We'll keep following the story