In a victory of sorts for the Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) and its president Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Labour Commissioner Ivan Williams has decided to postpone the planned redundancy of 26 employees of the Belize City Council until next Friday, February 14.
The postponement is in order to provide for further consultations with the Union and the employees.
In a press release issued today, the Union declared Thursday’s marathon “mediation session” hosted by the Labour Department “unsuccessful”, and not surprisingly it blames the Council’s representatives, principally Mayor Darrell Bradley, for the outcome.
The release claims that the Mayor and city council representatives exited the meeting with the Mayor quoted as insisting he would not hear Williams’ declaration that the redundancy be postponed until he had time to look over the statutory options.
The Union says it wanted the Council to share some of the savings from the privatization with what it calls “The sacrificial lambs, the very same Security Officers, on whose backs they say these savings will come from when CITCO gets rid of them.”
It adds that workers moving over to Ranger Security are being asked to take a pay cut from $4.50 to $3.50 an hour, go from an 8 hour shift to a 12 hour shift and not be able to get paid overtime except when they have to work on holidays.
Some of those 20 employees who were targeted for the move are refusing the job offer as “unfair” in its terms and conditions and are asking for a lump sum payment in two tiers to tide them over. But the Council insists it will not pay more than is required under law.
According to the Union, the Mayor also took issue with the Commissioner’s statement that he had not taken any position on their interpretation of Section 45 of the Labour Act and needed time to do so.
The release also claims that the Mayor requested similar time to make submissions and when the Commissioner ruled that the redundancy would be postponed, the Council team led by the Mayor led a “dramatic and loud attack” before “storming out”.
In closing, Matura-Shepherd warns, “This is a dangerous precedent, and it seems the amendment to the Labour Act, now that it is being tested, is being interpreted by the political directorate as a weapon of oppression rather than justice. Thus it was either an ill-conceived law or one now being abused to justify the acts of one employer“.