This is riduculous!
A few hundred stevedores of the Christian Workers Union who control the waterfront, have gone on an unannounced, unofficial strike which has caused two ships with Christmas and other freight for Belize to be diverted.
We need a court order to send these men back to work, and we need the government to declare that the dispute be settled by arbitration.
We do not advocate union-busting techniques, but if CWU workers refuse to do the work, we will have to find other workers who are willing to do it.
International shipping is a life line for Belize. It should be considered an essential industry because the country cannot survive without regular and reliable shipping for its imports and its exports. The strike action by the Christian Workers Union is illegal! It is not only il-legal. It is sabotage!
The area of contention – pension benefits for waterfront workers – is not an urgent issue of such over-arching importance as to justify a strike. Pension benefits are not going to be paid tomorrow, or anytime soon. So there is time to negotiate.
Even in normal times, strike action of this nature should be regarded as a last resort. To strike without giving adequate notice at Christmas time is a blow below the belt.
An unannounced strike at this time of the year shows vindictiveness and malice aforethought. It is irresponsible muscle-flexing at its worst. It should not be tolerated because the Christian Workers Union did not exhaust all the negotiating options open to it.
This is not to take anything away from the just claims of workers who have a right to agitate for a pension plan. Such a plan is necessary. When a waterfront worker becomes too old or too ill to do this kind of manual labour, they should be able to look forward to some sort of benefit to take them through their retirement years.
But this is a matter for negotiation – detailed painstaking negotiations which may not be accomplished in one, or two or even three months.
Leaders who are steeped in the labour union tradition know this. They know that it is their duty to restrain hot-headed workers bent on mayhem.
This strike has brought a new level of urgency for reform of Belize’s labour laws. There ought to be clearly defined guidelines to decide what is an essential industry and under what circumstances it is permissable to withhold one’s labour.
A few months ago there was a general sick-out among air traffic control operators of the Civil Aviation Department. The sick-out was only for a day, but it had the potential to do immense damage – damage which was disproportionately larger than the cause of the dispute.
The success of the sick-out has emboldened other trade unionists to think that they can do as they please with Belize’s economy.
This is not the case. It’s time for push-back!