Executive members of the Belize Electricity Workers Union (BEWU), including president Marvin Mora, arrived at the Labour Department shortly before 2 pm today for a most anticipated meeting with the Minister of Labour Hon. Godwin Hulse. This was after they pulled the plug on the negotiations over benefits and salary increases with the management of BEL and took to the streets to protest for three days straight. Negotiations were ongoing since November of last year. The Union had signed on to almost 90% of the proposals made by management but negotiations came at a standstill when the BEWU proposed an 8% across the board salary increase for their members and the management of BEL started introducing conditions to their request, which BEWU found to be unfair. President of BEWU , Marvin Mora, told us what were some of those conditions set by management, and the concerns they had with it which they presented today to the Minister of Labour, Godwin Hulse.
Marvin Mora, President, BEWU – “Well there are two conditions, the one that has to do with the sick days – we have about eight sick days during the year that you can take them, each one individually-singular, not consecutively where you can just call in sick and youcan stay home and no need to produce a lot of certificate. The other one is a resting period of our pension, where originally between the union and the board and the management of the company – we moved that down and now the company wants to put it back to where it was before and the union is not agreeing with that. So basically, those are the issues.”
So what’s next for the union? Mora says they will put down their pickets and angry placards for the time being and give the Minister time to mediate between management and union and hopefully help them reach common ground.
Marvin Mora, Belize Energy Workers Union – “Actually today, what we discussed today is basically just the issues, the concerns that the union have and how we arrive at this situation. Mind you, the Minister still has to do his part and try to bridge the gap together. So we are going to kind of rest it a little bit. One thing I can tell you is that we have preliminary, without actually going to our members, because we want to be responsible and show a sign of good faith – we are going to hold back the demonstrations until we hear from the Minister sometime next week.”
Marvin Mora – “Well, it affects the dynamic of the negotiations in a positive way for us at this level because we’re dealing with the government. The Minister is part of the government.”
Reporter – “Therefore the Minister is part of BEL.”
Marvin Mora – Well, in a sense he’s a part of BEL but a part of the owners of BEL. So it puts us in a better position than probably dealing with managerial level.
Reporter – “Whats next for the unions?”
Marvin Mora- “We are what you call “cautiously optimistic” that we are going to get some good results. But we will find out what will happen and depending on what happens then our membership and our leadership will have to take a decision.”
But regardless of where the winds blow, Marvin Mora says The Belize Electricity Workers Union remain adamant in their demand for an 8% salary increase for all their members.