BELIZE CITY, Thurs. July 30, 2020– In a short press release dated today, Thursday, entitled “PBL withdraws request for stevedores to return to work,” the PBL said that “In a letter to the Labour Commissioner and the President of the CWU, PBL has withdrawn its request for the stevedores to resume work while they negotiate the CBAs,” and that the PBL has requested a meeting with the CWU and the Labour Department to discuss the draft staff CBA counter proposal from PBL of April 3, 2020; as well as the stevedores work hour draft proposal, and the stevedores grievance and disciplinary procedure proposal.
Evan “Mose” Hyde, president of the CWU, had said that the country’s largest port is not functioning at its optimal capacity, and that the functioning capacity of the PBL rests on the labour of the stevedores.
The CWU president had informed that the stevedores unanimously agreed that they would not work without the negotiated protection of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), a stance to which they held on to even more resolutely after witnessing what some members of their sister unit under the CWU, the Port staff, experienced just over a week ago..
On July 27, 2020, the Port of Belize had released a statement entitled “Facts, not Fiction, Process not Politics,” to explain their position.
It addressed five areas — the matter of violence and vandalism of July 22, 2020; the matter of redundancy for 36 PBL positions; the matter of sugar vessels relocating away from the Port of Belize; the matter of PBL staff’s CBA; and the matter of stevedores’ working hours.
The PBL staff’s CBA is 18-years old, and the claim by the Port of Belize is that the CWU has made no counterproposals and that they have provided no response to 12 requests to meet on this and other matters.
Hyde’s response to that was that the management of the PBL has communicated that they do not believe that there is a mediator in-country who can facilitate the discussion on this matter, and that they wish to bring in an independent party to play that role — a move that, he fears, might place the negotiations outside the process established by Belize’s labor laws and could possibly put some of the protections that are being sought for the workers at risk.
Hyde maintains that on the negotiation of the CBA and mediation of other matters, the CWU will not operate outside the protection of Belize’s Labor Act, which provides a mediation framework and regulator, the Ministry of Labor of the Government of Belize.
PBL had remained reluctant to accept mediation under those terms of the Constitution of Belize.
In its press release of July 27, 2020, the PBL had charged that “the CWU’s lack of good faith negotiations has brought our two organizations to the point we are today.”
Today, however, the PBL has said that it has reserved a room at the Biltmore “and await notification from both parties so that a healthy and respectful dialogue/negotiations may commence.”