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GoB finally makes a breakthrough with stevedores

HeadlineGoB finally makes a breakthrough with stevedores

Photo: Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Mar. 18, 2024

After a rocky few weeks of unsettled negotiations between the Christian Workers Union (CWU) and the Government of Belize (GoB), today the Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. John Briceño traveled to Belize City to meet with the president of the CWU, Leonora Flowers and her board, the Chief Executive Officer from the Port of Belize, Arturo Vasquez, along with selected Belize City ministers of his government to chart the way forward.

This meeting comes after a series of tense negotiations and public disagreements that have seen the CWU and the GoB at odds over the treatment and compensation of stevedores.

The dispute, reignited on March 8 when the CWU withdrew from previous agreements with the Port of Belize Ltd. (PBL), centered around compensation and working conditions for stevedores affected by operational shifts to Big Creek.

Despite an Essential Services Arbitration Tribunal ruling in their favor, the stevedores felt PBL fell short of initial discussions, especially given a proposal of $1.5 million compensation package, far below the CWU’s $4.8 million demand, prompting CWU President Flowers to declare an end to negotiations and leading to an informal strike that saw ships leave Belizean waters unloaded.

Tensions remained high even up to last week Thursday, as stevedores and their president demanded to meet and continue negotiating with the Prime Minister and the PBL before going back to work. However, Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Cordel Hyde’s intervention persuaded stevedores to resume work that evening, pending further discussions for today.

Well, the meeting which took place at the Charter House, became a breakthrough for both sides, as the press conference held immediately afterwards revealed the end to an extended dispute.

“We have an agreement and basically, we’ve been working on the number of gang size, the number of hours that we’re going to be working in, and we believe that we have an agreement at this moment,” shared the Prime Minister.

With a redundancy package set at $1.6 million, an additional $100,000 is expected to be included in the upcoming Cabinet budget to address the CWU’s legal expenses.

The CWU welcomed the government’s new proposal, with President Flowers stating, “We believe it is palatable for our members. It’s a step in the right direction for us. I can say today that we have seen a difference in the communication, a difference in the discussions, and so we feel that we’re on the right track.”

The agreement, once drafted and finalized by the CWU and the GoB’s attorneys, is set to be signed tomorrow, March 19.

“Today is a win for everybody. It’s a win for the stevedores and the Christian Workers Union and for the labour movement. It’s a win for Port of Belize; it’s a win for the consumers; it’s a win for the economy; and it’s a win for the Government of Belize,” expressed the Prime Minister.

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