BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Oct. 7, 2021– It’s been an almost 20-year fight for the Christian Workers Union’s (CWU) staff members at the Port of Belize Ltd. (PBL), but yesterday, October 6, 2021, they finally signed a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with their employer, PBL.
Today, the Port of Belize issued a press release which stated that the signing of this new CBA is a milestone, given that the old CBA has been in place since December 2002.
“The CWU and PBL undertook these negotiations in an atmosphere of mutual respect and compromise, which is a demonstration of harmonious industrial relations for the benefit of our staff and our customers,” the release from PBL states.
The newly signed CBA should remain in effect for the period 2021 to 2024.
During an interview with local media today, CWU president Evan “Mose” Hyde said that the signing of this new agreement is a source of great relief for the PBL’s staff members, who have been working under the outdated CBA for the last 20 years.
“I think about the reps, I think about what they had to put in. They are the ones who walked in those shoes at PBL. I am the union president, but I am not an employee at PBL. They are the ones who have been [there], for some instances, for two and a half decades. They have had to be very instrumental in even putting the union’s presence at the Port in a stable way,” Hyde commented.
Hyde said that the efforts of some CWU representatives who lost their jobs in 2020 as a part of the PBL’s purported cost-saving exercise were instrumental to the progress in negotiations and the ultimate signing of the new CBA. The termination of those persons, and their future employment prospects at PBL, are issues that have been placed before a labour tribunal for resolution.
“These reps, I believe unjustly, were ultimately casualties of this process as they were terminated in 2020, but they are still here, still us, they are still there in that document and their journey still continue, because we still have significant unfinished business in representing their cause by way of the labour complaints tribunal,” Hyde said.
He said that staff members must now become aware of the rights enshrined in the new CBA and prepare themselves for the signing of a new CBA come 2024.
“Obviously, we want them to understand that we cannot countenance another two decades before we get another agreement. We must start to work and prepare to ensure that in a timely fashion, and I’m speaking now to employer and union, that within three years we are able to once again get around a table and produce another collective agreement that is going to be fair and just,” Hyde said.
He noted that the CBA includes some terms with which the CWU staff are quite pleased.
“One of the aspects of the agreement that the staff obviously appreciate and respects is that in this very challenging time there has been commitment coming from the employer for increases in 2022 and 2023, and while it is just a little above inflation, it’s better than where everything has been going during this pandemic. There is a lot that our members would have wanted. It is kinda like bittersweet, because you wait so long to get a CBA, and then you end up having to achieve one in the middle of the most unfavorable time to do CBAs.” Hyde shared.
And while the austerity brought on by the pandemic makes for a less than ideal moment to finally hash out this agreement, Hyde said that the CBA includes all essentials sought by the workers, and the agreement is deemed to be fair by the union.
According to Hyde, there are about 108 unionized staff employees at PBL.
A release issued by the Government of Belize today notes, “The teamwork displayed among the Port of Belize Limited and the Christian Workers Union under the guidance of the Labour Department resulted in the historic signing of this new collective bargaining agreement and ensures the continued protection of the rights of both the employees and the employer.
“The Labour Department will now engage the CWU and the PBL to pursue a resolution of all outstanding matters that have been raised on behalf of the stevedores. As always, the Government of Belize will continue to pursue tripartism and work closely with industry stakeholders to promote national economic recovery and growth. “