Early this afternoon, about 30 stevedores who are members of the Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) initiated their latest industrial action against the Port of Belize Limited. This follows on from their last action a few weeks ago which started in the night and was averted the following day by an agreement between the CWU and Port CEO Arturo Vasquez, as the two sides continue to hammer out a collective bargaining agreement. But the workers now say Vasquez is reneging on the agreement, for no good reason, and they will not stand for it any longer. Guy Neal is a stevedore, well-known bodybuilder and member of the negotiating team for the CWU and he explains what led up to today’s walk-out.
Guy Neal, Member, Stevedores Negotiating Team: Well yes we take industrial action because what happen is that when we went into the meeting on the 3rd with the Port Team, Mr. Vasquez backtrack and most of what he says concerning our retirement and our retroactive pay and we assigned to it, including myself, and now we have to go back to the stevedores and tell them this that it nuh right, we cannot stand for this anymore.
Aaron Humes, Reporter: This is what you had agreed to following the last industrial action 2-3 weeks ago right?
Aaron Humes, Reporter: And do you have any reason, did he give you any reason as to why he’d backtrack?
Guy Neal, Member, Stevedores Negotiating Team: Well it’s a poor excuse that he says certain things he never says but we would have never come back to the stevedore, which we had 60 add stevedores out here, and relay to them what we have got.
As of this evening a meeting asked for by the workers was not held as CWU President Audrey Matura-Shepherd indicated that she was awaiting a formal request from the Port for a meeting. She has not made herself available for comment at news time. The workers have been after the Port for their CBA since 2004, eleven years ago. Neal told us that he is mystified by the foot-dragging toward working out an arrangement. As for today’s stoppage, he insists that everyone gets hurt, not just the stevedores.
Guy Neal, Member, Stevedores Negotiating Team: It is from 2004-2012 around the 12th of December when they took us over. From then we cannot get a CBA signed up and I think it’s just dragging on too long for no reason, I don’t see why. We go to the table in good faith and I don’t see why we cannot get anything settled by now. We’ve been going what, 12, 11 years?
Guy Neal, Member, Stevedores Negotiating Team: I agree to disagree. It hurts all of us. But there comes a time when you have to take a stand and stopped being pushed like a wheelbarrow.
As of news time there was no word on resumption of operations from either side.