This morning, following the launch of a fitness program being carried out by the Belize City Council, the Mayor got plenty verbal exercise as he bobbed and weaved through the media’s questions on the recently publicized decision to privatize the Council’s security. According to the Mayor, the decision was taken in order to reduce costs.
“The total cost that we pay for security services right now is $700,000 and that is going down to about $400,000. So, we will be saving a substantial amount. I want to make very clear to members of the public that running a City council is like running your home; it’s a muff thing; if I have a dollar, I spend 45c out of that dollar for sanitation services and 35c out of that dollar for employment costs. If people want and they expect their streets to be fixed and they expect a vibrant city council, where would you think that I would get that money from to be responsible and treat people fairly? We have to have a more efficient city council. When I took office, the city council had 297 employees. When we effect this privatization, we are going to have 225 employees; we have reduced the staff of the city council by 23%. That is savings in labour costs and that money is going back into running the city, paying bills for the city and developing streets and other infrastructure”.
The Mayor told us that of the 26 employees affected by City Hall’s move? The Mayor told us that 20 of them will be hired by the new company headed by Mr. Hiram Longsworth, although he could not say what their pay and benefits would be, as there is no contract signed between the two parties as yet. He insisted that there were consultations with staff done before the final decision was made.
Reporter: “Was this consultation with the staff done after the CWU’s first press conference or before?
Mayor Darrel Bradley: “Before”.
Reporter: “So, where is the proof for that?”
Mayor Darrel Bradley: “I don’t have to give any proof. This was done before; ask any staff member. I am saying it differently. We had the city administrator in that meeting, the staff manager which is Mr. Hiram Longsworth; he is the individual who will take over the staff; the people asked questions in the meeting: what bou mih job, bout this, bout that. We assured them, we told them who will be taking on, who will be staying with the city council, who will be”.
Reporter: “That was after the city council’s decision that they won’t be redundant though”.
Mayor Darrel Bradley: “That was before. This was done like about two weeks ago. If you have any thing that I am saying, ask the staff. Don’t ask the union because the Union wasn’t there”.
Mayor Bradley added that the Labour Act’s 30-day requirement is to inform authorities like the Labour Commissioner and the union of plans to proceed, not the employees, who are subject to the same period of notice for redundancy as they would get for outright termination. Today the Mayor met with Commissioner Ivan Williams and he says they clarified a few concerns.
Mayor Darrel Bradley: “I met with the Labour Commissioner this morning and the reason why that came out was because I was outside of the country for the entire of last week. So, again, I am not the person who is directly engaging with the Labour Commission; I am not the person who is directly engaging with the staff and because of these circumstances and the Labour Unions and the Commissioner call ins and things like that, the city administrator felt that well, since it has gotten to that level, let us hold off until the Mayor returns. I returned, I met with theLabour Commissioner this morning, he was satisfied with the information and with what we have done and he wanted to verify that the calculations were done correctly on what we were paying them; that is only a mathematical thing. If you are saying that we owe you $300 more, we are going to pay you the $300 more; if you are saying that you are entitled to $2,000, we are going to give you the 2,000 more. No staff has to be concerned that we would treat them unfairly”.
The move reduces the Council’s employment listing to 225 from 297, and the Council, according to the Mayor, has given employees increments, better health benefits, and is working on tenure and unionization.
The Christian Workers’ Union is the bargaining unit on record but has been unable to get started on a collective bargaining agreement since 1999, a condition the Mayor today described as “laziness.” The CWU has other outstanding agreements on the table including one with the Port of Belize Limited on behalf of the stevedores.