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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,395
Marty Offline OP
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The stalemate at the Port of Belize Limited finally ended today - after eight days of strike action, the stevedores voted to return to work.

And the CWU says it pulled back because it is satisfied with the ruling of the Essential services Arbitration Tribunal on Thursday. As we told you yesterday, that Tribunal directed The Port of Belize to confirm the primary stevedores as regular stevedores; to promote the 28 secondary substitutes to primary substitutes and invite them to participate in PBL's insurance scheme; to pay their share of contributions to the retirement savings for these 28 stevedores from the 13th of July - which was when the dispute was first brought to the attention of the minister; and, finally, PBL must commence negotiations for payment under the Redundancy Package as agreed between the parties on March 6th.

The CWU, in their release, is appealing to the Receivership Management at PBL to comply with the ruling and engage with them on the outstanding matters.

The release also says that they would meet with GOB representatives today about the government's offer to their members. They don't say what that offer is but we assume it is monetary compensation for the, quote, "issues and hardships caused to the stevedores by the Port's privatization."

The CWU says they are willing to further negotiate issues with the government that they feel need to be remedied to ensure that the industrial relationship at the Port is stabilized.

Notably, the release does not mention their views on PBL's proposed $1,000,000 lawsuit against them. We reported yesterday that the company is threatening to sue the CWU for loss of earnings because of, what they call, an illegal strike.

We reached out to Andy Lane, PBL's CEO, for comment today but he declined, saying "The situation right now is delicate and sensitive to say the least. We are healing, and working, next week is the earliest that I would wish to be making public statements."

Many Containers To Clear

But with eight days of inactivity, container were backed up and stacked up at the port. We already told you that shipping companies were informing their customers of delays they would be experiencing because of the strike, and the BCCI warned that the cost of consumer goods would increase as well.

But according to customs broker, Delroy Fairweather, things aren't as dire as they may have seemed. He explained that there isn't as much of a backlog as was expected since some ships sailed south to the Big Creek Port. He also noted that consumers should not really see an increase in the cost of goods and, don't worry, shelves won't be empty.

Delroy Fairweather - VP, Customs Brokers Association of Belize
"The couple days delays that we had, remember vessels were diverting down to the Port of Big Creek which kind of picked up the slack, so we had maybe a couple days where we had to worked out the logistics and I could tell you that yes, containers are being trucked at present back to Belize City. So, to say that the country would have ran out of supplies, it could have been maybe something even more dramatic than this 8 days or so. What this actually did was created some delays which I would refer to it as very minimal delays, because now one week later the vessels which came into port that was scheduled to be here this week, so there is not really much it would say that it would have created a situation where the shelves would have been peeled. There are costs to move the containers from what we have worked out. If you would multiply or divide it into the total cost of what's inside those containers, it really and truly shouldn't be anything that significant, because the cost to move the containers were like probably around a thousand Belize dollars to move a container from Big Creek Port to Belize City. Let's say the value of containers its around twenty thousand Belize dollars, it wouldn't make any significant difference in terms of raising the price or anything. If we are moving into the price gouging aspect, if people start seeing maybe a notation in the cost and they are attributing it because goods were coming through Big Creek, I would say no, it would be more on the freight end, because of course we still are dealing with the price of containers at 300%-400% the freight cost at this moment. So the prices should be within the same range, it shouldn't be any difference of such."

On Monday, we'll check back to see how the offloading is going.

Channel 7

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,395
Marty Offline OP
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Activity Resumes but Contentious Issues Remain

The standstill at the Port of Belize Limited came to an end this morning. Stevedores reported back to work at eight a.m., but the issues that led to the dispute between the stevedores and the port have yet to be resolved. Negotiations continue between both parties and behind closed doors. Still, the weeks ahead are very crucial for the port's operations as all stakeholders are now scrambling to make up for lost time and lost revenue. News Five Paul Lopez reports.

Paul Lopez, Reporting

A truck leaving the pier at the Port of Belize this morning came as a good sign to businesses across the country. Finally, the standstill has come to an end and stevedores are back to work. Concerns were growing among stakeholders in the shipping industry and import/export sectors over the impasse between the stevedores and their employers at the Port of Belize Limited. It lasted for eight days, before coming to an end today. It is welcome news for companies like ASR/BSI that exports over four hundred thousand dollars worth of direct consumption sugar through the port weekly. Even though work has resumed, the dead stop at the port will still have lasting implications as Ruy Martinez, Regional Commercial Director, at ASR/BSI told us earlier this week.

Ruy Martinez, Regional Commercial Director, at A.S.R./B.S.I.

"Let's say the strike cuts off tomorrow and over the weekend. There is not enough empty containers, because no vessels have come in. And, if the vessels does come in and discharge those loaded containers, it will take a week or two for the costumers to discharge those containers, unload their imports. It will take maybe a couple of weeks for those empty containers to be given into our possession and enough time for us to load those containers with exports of sugar. So, it is not that simple as, the vessel start coming in today, the sugar starts exporting. It is every single week it is going to be delay, a delay, and you end up having a sugar export delay of two to three weeks."

Already experiencing a backlog on the import of its products, Belizean Queen Freight Services asked its customers to be patient, noting quote, "Due to the backlog, and the uncertainty as to the order of release, we are asking for patience and understanding´┐Ż", end quote. Even with the return to work, the Port of Belize is preparing to file a lawsuit against the Christian Workers Union for the large sums of money it says was lost during the impasse, referring to the strike action as illegal. This morning, Andy Lane, C.E.O. at the Port of Belize told of via text, quote, "For those who break the law, consequences must always exist. Our customers and us have suffered significant economic losses due to the illegal strike. This will be addressed through established protocols", end quote. C.E.O. Lane, in an interview last week, told us similar words to the same effect.

Andy Lane, C.E.O., Port of Belize Limited

"There is a tribunal in progress which the union continuously tries to disrupt and walk away from, or simply don't turn up, and that where that discussion should be had. A strike in the middle of this tribunal is illegal. This is not the stevedores fault; this is not the stevedores doing. This is the creation of the Christian Workers Union and they have to take full responsibility for now what would be a drying up of inbound supply chain, the failure to ship Belizean Sugar's export cargo. This will have ramification in the community, ramifications for Belize's competiveness in the global environment. What is going on here is nothing short of lunacy."

On Thursday, the Essential Services Tribunal made its ruling, declaring that the parties begin negotiations for payment under the Redundancy Package as agreed on the sixth of March 2020. The letter being referred to here was signed on the sixth of March 2020, by former C.E.O. at the Port of Belize Arturo Vasquez, C.W.U. President Evan Hyde and former Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour, Carla Barnett. In the letter, all three parties agreed that if ASR/BSI makes a decision to permanently move its shipping of bulk sugar to Big Creek, within sixty days a fleshed out agreement on the Redundancy Package would be signed. The Christian Workers Union is satisfied with the Tribunal's ruling. Today they called on P.B.L. to, "comply with the ruling and engage with us on the outstanding matters that could be potential stumbling blocks in our relationships". So, stevedores are back to their job of loading and unloading of cargo from ships. The Port of Belize is back to delivering its services to its customers. And, the conflicting parties are back in negotiations.

Channel 5

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