Port of Belize Limited (PBL) is calling the Christian Workers Union’s decision to take industrial action “premature” after being served with a 21-day notice this week.
On Thursday, the PBL held a press briefing, where its management team, led by Chief Executive Officer Andy Lane, chronicled the events leading up to the notice of intended industrial action. Lane noted that the PBL empathizes with stevedores given the uncertainty they face as the Government of Belize is preparing to deliberate on whether the loading and unloading of sugar vessels should remain at the PBL or be moved down to the port in Big Creek.
“The PBL does not, however, agree that a ‘go slow’ is an appropriate step at this stage. We feel that it is a little premature, and it could even be counterproductive with the government about to decide which port will handle sugar in the future. This should be a time where the port of Belize, the Christian Workers Union, and the stevedores should be demonstrating that this is the best port to handle the business,” Lane said.
He noted that he also agrees with the CWU that the staff’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is long overdue and has agreed to meet with the union on Wednesday, July 21, the day after Cabinet will make a determination on which port will be handling sugar going forward. Lane emphasized that the PBL will be doing its best to improve the working conditions of its staff, but that the CWU has the ultimate responsibility to consult with its members and ensure that the demands they make reflect the will of the staff.
“I also just want to point out that we are a company in receivership…and if we get demands for extremely high cost increases those are going to be very difficult to agree to because we have to make sure that this business is sustainable,” Lane added.
The CWU held its own press briefing on Thursday, stressing that the CBA has been pending for around 18 years and workers are frustrated. CWU President Evan “Mose” Hyde said that the PBL’s seeming lack of urgency in resolving the issue, coupled with the potential loss of income that may result from the switch to Big Creek, is what prompted the decision to take such action. Hyde said that the CWU is ready at anytime, even before the Cabinet meeting, to meet with the PBL management team to finalize the CBA.