Ex-employees of BWS back in court

The trial of Mark Menzies, Don Gillett, and four other workers claiming termination from Belize Water Services Limited (BWS) resumed after a six-month break before Justice Michelle Arana.

Former president of the Belize Water Services Workers’ Union Lorelei Westby, BWS CEO Alvan Haynes, and Human Resource Officer Haydon Brown were closely cross-examined on the inner workings of the utility company, and the circumstances that led to the release – the company says redundancy, the workers termination – of the employees early in February of 2013.

The company had grappled for the last six months before with an internal scandal – a series of salacious letters that Alvan Haynes said sapped morale and led to bitter infighting and threats against all levels of staff and Board members, which were reported to Police.

Despite launching an investigation that interviewed more than 50 employees, the company could not get to the bottom of what happened.

Concurrently, according to Mr Haynes, 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.

Alvan Haynes’ memo of February 7, 2012, was in his words an attempt to flesh out further information, but he denied that it had anything to do with the claimants. Instead, he said it was a warning to other employees to watch their behaviour and cooperate, a decision Mr Haynes now regrets as not in keeping with the core values of the company including integrity.

Lorelei Westby was not in the country at the time of the investigation, leaving after attending two meetings and delegating management to a subordinate, and so the Union was not in a position to help the workers who were in some cases fellow union executives.

Examination concluded Thursday evening, and the two sides are to hand in written submissions by January 23, after which Justice Arana is expected to make her decision.

The employees are suing for their outstanding benefits and packages.

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