The Council had promised to have the cheques ready by 2:00 p.m. Friday but they were not and the workers were not paid until after 4:00 p.m., by which time most banks had already closed.
Worse, the workers have alleged that their final cheques were short of what had been promised, for reasons unknown. Today we spoke with CWU president Audrey Matura-Shepherd who said this should have been worked out already.
“I thought it would have been, and if there is a problem with working it out in a timely manner, at least communicate with the Union, so we can tell our members, look, although these are the financial obligation which the Council has made towards the Union and these are the monies they should pay to you. Please note that at this moment, certain calculations haven’t been made. It is simple communication; like Friday, when I thought everything was going smooth, when I stopped in, I was surprised to meet the workers there up in arms, and having to calm them down and telling them that we know there might be a good reason why it has not happened; I am sure that they won’t go back. All of that could have been avoided because you are dealing with people who, for them, in their mind, there is finality, and there is finality because they have already stopped working with the council and you are somewhere else and they believe that if there is finality, you should have given me my money”.
The law gives the Council ten days to fix all payments and the Union had requested the breakdown for each employee, while the employees can clarify any matters with the Labour Department.
A total of 19 workers out of 36 survived the move, with several others staying on with the Council by various means, but according to Matura-Shepherd those workers have not been officially offered jobs by the new company with specified terms and conditions. The Council had promised a higher rate of pay among other things.
Very critically, a planned final meeting with Mayor Darrell Bradley and manager of Ranger Security, the private company that is taking over the CitCo contract, Hiram Longsworth, did not go off as planned on Friday. Matura-Shepherd tells us what the Union wants when they finally meet.
According to Matura-Shepherd, the end of the workers’ tenure at City Hall does not sever them from the Union or insulate the workers from inappropriate behaviour by their new employer. She relates her concerns.
Ms. Audrey Matura Shepherd: “I am concerned that attempts must be made to bust the Union with the security officers and I am also concerned that (you could have taken these 22 workers, have them work a month or two; maybe even three months, and thereafter, get rid of them, because remember that these workers are getting $4.48 an hour which is what they were getting at the council, but new workers can be hired and the employer does not want to give them the same rate. So, why would you keep workers you can. You have to pay more to get the same job when you can pay less to get the same job done.
Reporter: “And of course, if that happens, you would be compelled to intervene again”.
Ms. Audrey Matura Shepherd: “Yes, we would have to. Belizeans need to understand that at the end of the day, it comes down to being just to the workers and of course, we tell the workers, go and do your job the proper way; go and perform. Don’t give them any excuse to come after you to do anything to violate your rights”.
Neither the Council nor the new firm has made any public response to the CWU.