After final written submissions on March 6, Supreme Court Justice Michelle Arana is to consider the case of six former employees of Belize Water Services Limited (BWS), who say they were terminated by the utility company two years ago in February of 2013, in response to alleged improper behavior in facilitating the circulation of a series of salacious and unproven allegations made against various employees that sunk the company into a morass of bitter infighting, featuring threats against all levels of staff and Board members which were reported to Police.
Concurrently, according to the testimony of top BWS executives, the company was deciding to implement redundancy as a cost-cutting measure after its rates were cut 7.2% by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), and department heads recommended the claimants for redundancy despite fair to good marks in their most recent performance appraisal in March of 2012.
On Wednesday BWS’s attorney Julie-Ann Ellis Bradley successfully applied to recall one of the claimants, Charlette Barnett, to testify about a pair of meetings held in early October of 2012, the first between members of the company’s in-house workers’ union, and the other a committee meeting to discuss the union’s proposals on salary scale adjustments after workers rejected the company’s proposals.
Attorney for Charlette Barnett and four other claimants in the case, Tricia Pitts-Anderson, says that Wednesday’s testimony will weigh most in the deliberations of the court, but would not say if it damaged or advanced her case.
Claimant Michael Novelo says insult has been added to injury by the lengthy legal process and he and his fellow ex-employees hope that the end is truly near.
“It is the sentiment of all of us that we think that BWS is grabbing at straws. It is very, very strenuous, as we have to be back and forth at this place.
They’re taking the full extent of the legal road, and it is their right, but it is too long at this time. It is very strenuous, and we are here for the long haul.”
Attorney Tricia Pitts-Anderson represents Charlette Barnett and fout other claimants.
Senior Counsel Said Musa represents the other claimant, Mark Menzies.
The ex-employees are suing for outstanding benefits and termination packages.