One of Belize’s largest employers is embroiled in labour trouble tonight. Earlier this week, 13 delivery truck drivers raised concerns with new contracts offered to them by Bowen and Bowen, the bottling giants who distribute Coca Cola, Crystal Water and Fruit Beverages, Belikin and Lighthouse Beer and Guinness among other brands.
They were told that they would receive 27% more in base pay but lower prices for commission and no overtime. They would be expected to deliver on contracted sales for the company and officially promoted to supervisors.But this group chose to take one day sick day off on Wednesday, communicating this to the employers.
As a result, they were terminated. Today they went to the Bowen worksite on Slaughterhouse Road and were turned away. Kevin Garbutt is one of the men who suddenly found himself without a job today.
“I went to the gate just now and they didn’t want to let me in. They tell me that my name is in a list that certain people cannot come in (13 of the guys cannot come in on the compound
Reporter: “Did you ever receive any notice of your termination or changing status of employment?”
Mr. Kevin Garbutt: “Not even a phone call we received, we didn’t get no kind of information that we were fired; we just found out on the news last night that 13 of us were fired. So, I came in to work this morning because I have my doctor paper to prove that I was on a sick leave. See it here. I even send one to King Street office and give it directly to the H. R.
Garbutt’s tenure at the company lasted eight years. Employee for 3 1/2 years with the company, Mr. John Gabourel, says the new contract is a step backward for him.
“Based on the fact that she is stating that we were getting $0.10 per crate commission, we have the paper here to show, we were getting $0.20 case commission, and they reduced it to $0.07, and not from $0.10 to $0.07. And if you notice, no overtime included right here: they state it clearly on the paper, NO overtime because they increase from $682 monthly to $870 monthly. That increased when they handed us this document”.
Mr. Gabourel says they were presented the contract, take it or leave it, at the end of a tiring day in which they were expected to deliver more than three times their typical number of cases for less overall pay.
They had asked for more time to consider the matter and had gone to the Labour Department to seek advice. Gabourel says the company should not be allowed to dictate conditions to its employees.
Mr. John Gabourel of Bowen and Bowen: “To be honest about that, we are her every day. We are here for quite a while and you see man com eenah dis gate, sieh way dehn com in an dehn waak out bac, one day, two days and dehn get fired same way; what are the reasons? We no queshtian it Al wi try do, get out deh, do what we have to do, perfaam to our best and try get the job done. We have no differences in trying to get the job done; we are not trying to sabotage the company or anything like that. All that we are trying to, is to feel treated right in a sense. We no want nobody be taken of us and trying o push whatever down into our throats”.
The group now says it will seek legal advice, though they do not expect to get their jobs back.
The company has already found replacements for the group, and says that they deserted their posts by their actions this week. We will follow up this story tomorrow as we try to get comment from Bowen and Bowen.