Almost one year after chaos ensued at the Port of Belize between the police and the Christian Workers Union, the CWU presented PBL with a 21 one day notice of industrial action. This notice was given on July 13th, after almost a week of go-slow. And to hopefully chart a less violent way forward, today the CWU met with the labor commissioner, who will now act as a mediator as CWU and PBL continue with their negotiations.
And if you think this feels like deja vu, well, the two entities have had years of back and forth concerning their CBA. And the union feels this issue should have been resolved without them having to take any sort of industrial action.
But this go-slow doesn't only affect PBL, it also affects the stevedores, the sugar cane farmers, and ASR/BSI. President Evan "Mose" Hyde is more concerned about the first two, though, and he has sat down with the farmers and promised them to end the go-slow as soon as progress is made.
Port Says It's Not Unscrupulous
And this go-slow comes at a critical time when the government is deciding whether ASR/BSI sugar shipments will continue going to PBL or be moved to Big Creek Port in Stann Creek. PBL's CEO, Andrew Lane, is concerned that the go-slow will negatively affect this decision, which will in turn have grave consequences on the future finances of the company and the money earned by the stevedores.
And while Lane is new to the PBL executive, he agreed that the CBA is long overdue, but says that while they are open to starting discussions on Wednesday, there is only so much they can do while they await the final decision:
In a timeline of events that Lane laid out, they had ceded 5 points on contention and were awaiting the CWU to revert with proposals for the remaining 3 points, but Lane claimed they never got it. On May 28th , the CWU wrote to the PM citing an MOU from 2006 signed between the government at the time and Toledo Enterprises which contains a clause preventing Big Creek from handling dry cargo, which is to be handled by PBL.
The CWU letter and the MOU were sent by the PM to the AG on July 12th and is expected to be discussed in the Cabinet meeting on the 20th.
Lane also mentioned that PBL and CWU had come a long way in their negotiations last year, but that fell to the water after issues with the mediator.