By Benjamin Flowers
With the Government of Belize (GOB) passing a Statutory Instrument regulating the stevedores’ ability to strike, Christian Worker’s Union (CWU) President Audrey Matura-Shepherd says that GOB has given them the “bukut” for Christmas.
Matura-Shepherd explained the stevedores’ strike action earlier this month came as a result of frustration in the negotiations, which saw the Port of Belize (PBL) negotiators changing a proposal which was already settled.
She explained that the new legislation puts the stevedores in a disadvantaged position when trying to advocate for better benefits.
“I am concerned that they will put stevedores in a desperate situation and an unfair situation – very unfair for them. And by passing this legislation making the unloading and uploading – although they didn’t say stevedores, we know it’s them they are attacking,” Matura-Shepherd said.
On Monday December 7th, members of stevedore gang seven, led by Guy Neal, started a strike because they were unhappy with the proposal for pensions for the stevedores that the PBL was offering.
The stevedores want their pension scheme to be increased by six percent, retroactive for the past 11 years.
PBL, however, contends that it cannot make the increase retroactive.
In response to the strike, Minister of Labour, Hugo Patt, signed a Statutory Instrument on Friday December 18th, amending section 2 (a): Settlement of Disputes in Essential Services Act Chapter 298 of the Laws of Belize Revised Edition 2011.
The amendment classifies Port Services as essential services. This prevents them under the Act to take strike action without first giving 21 days notice.
GOB explained that the Act will allow for “early intervention by government into trade disputes and reduce the likelihood of lockout or strike.”