Progress made on Stevedore Negotiations

This week we have been following the travails of the Christian Workers Union which is seeing infighting during tense negotiations with the Port of Belize Limited. It has taken many years but according to Port receiver Arturo Vasquez there has been some progress made.

Arturo Vasquez – Ports receiver:

vlcsnap-2013-08-19-08h31m37s177The Stevedores may want to suggest that it may be our negotiations, but I don’t think that that is a valid reason, because we have really moved forward since these negotiations have started. We have signed off on four agreements, the Stevedore’s have been paid ‘back pay’ for seven years.  They have had increases which they never had before. All 150 Stevedores are now fully insured, which has never happened before, and there are two other issues I think that were addressed. So negotiations have been going on. Our delays recently have been , in my opinion, because the union has not been able to keep their members together.  Whenever we have a meeting they are all scattered, one will show and one will not show, and in most cases, and I think for a while Mr. Gonzalez was ill, I think he was away, and Mr. McFoy was following up on it.

As for how the Union’s internal dispute affects the negotiations, Mr Vasquez says he thinks much of what is left to negotiate can be settled.

Arturo Vasquez – Ports receiver:

Some of the things that are still on the table like gang sizes and working hours and all that, I think those things can easily be resolved if both sides are willing to give and take. Where the working hours are concerned, we have already shown to the union in front of the Labor Commissioner that legally they have to abide by certain laws when it comes to working hours.  The Union, in our last discussion, had  said to us that they have accepted that position, which they have to accept.  It is by law that there are only so many hours that you can work, but of course it’s negotiations.  They would say, ‘We accept that, but still providing that something else happens.’  But unfortunately right now, stevedores continue to work outside the ruling of the law.  I have to say that the people who are in positions to enforce that, it seems to me, just prefer to turn a blind eye to it.

According to Arturo Vasquez the first he knew of any conflict was the series of news stories this week, but the Union has canceled four consecutive meetings in recent weeks and the negotiations are currently suspended pending resolution of the Union’s internal matters. As to charges that Union president Antonio Gonzalez has been too soft on PBL, Mr Vasquez says he believes he has not been hard enough with the people he represents.

Arturo Vasquez – Ports receiver:

vlcsnap-2013-08-19-09h05m17s173I don’t think Mr. Gonzalez is a ‘soft’ person, he tries to defend all the situations and all the positions put forth. In my opinion, I think what it is wrong is the way the union negotiates , and  perhaps there are reasons why he has to do this and if it is that that makes him soft,  then I will think that it is the same union that allowed him to be soft. If you have a negotiating team that will represent 150 Stevedores, I would imagine that after putting that negotiating team together, you have given them the strength and the authority to make certain decisions on your behalf. Now where I find where the problem comes in is that the negotiating team are never able to make decisions. They have to leave and speak to 150 Stevedores and then come back. Can you imagine having 150 opinions? So in my opinion, that is what I see as being the difficulty in negotiating. There’s a negotiating team, in my view, that does not have the authority. My experience with the president is that he has to always go back and get an approval, so I don’t know if you agree with me, but that would be very difficult to do.  A negotiating team should be given that authority to say, you’re there to negotiate for us and do the best that you can for us, and sometimes I do believe that that is the reason why the negotiations take so long. We can agree on something here, we can see where we have come to an agreement.  It has taken back and everything then just starts all over again. I don’t disagree with having to go back and report to your team because on my side I have to do the same thing but I believe that it is how you report. If I sit at a meeting and I go back to my 150 people, I think I need to convince them of the decisions that I have made and I’m not in those meetings but somehow I get the impressions that maybe that is where the leadership of the union is failing because they are not able to go back and convince these people because if you weigh what has just been decided, we are better off with this sort of thing.

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