Prison Officers appeal for action from the Minister of Labour

KolbyLate last month, the Labour Commissioner published his findings on recent firings at the Kolbe Foundation. Within a six month period, a total  of thirty three employees  were  no longer employed  with  Kolbe Foundation  at the  Belize Central Prison.  There were several public complaints and the Commissioner’s report centered on those of six specific persons all terminated from the Belize central Prison in Hattieville. In the document, Commissioner Williams raised a number of concerns including vague letters of termination which were presented to five of the complainants. The letters, Williams said, implied that the complainants were employed under a fixed term employment contract, but he found no evidence that non management employees were hired on such a basis. The use of a letter of termination presented to other complainants claims the Commissioner, led to an abuse of the termination process in that the real reason was never told to them, neither were they given an opportunity to respond.  The CEO of the Kolbe Foundation Earl Jones had responded to the report, saying that Williams made some crucial mistakes in his investigation that led to spurious pronouncements. The commissioner’s report has since been sent to the desk of the Minister of Labor, Hon. Godwin Hulse. A coalition called the Belize central Prison coalition has since been formed and they are now making demands in relation to their termination of employment at Kolbe as well as the welfare of those still in employment there. They believe the Commisisoner’s report did not go far enough and have since held a meeting with the Ombudsman. Abdul Marin Nunez tells us more.

Abdul Marin Nunez – Former Kolbe Employee:

vlcsnap-2013-08-14-08h53m13s234The Ombudsman is telling us that we have to take up the matter with the Labour Department and the Minister of Labour, because we expected more from the Labour Commissioner’s Report.  It was just a declaration, when in fact it should have been a substantive order for compensation for unlawful termination for the 33 plus employees.  Furthermore, we’re asking the Minister of Labour to tell us what is the cut-off date for the possible Labour Complaints Tribunal, now that the Report has been submitted to him.  We’re looking at the damages and compensation for these officers that were terminated, or possibly the reinstatement, and then the establishment of the Human Resource unit to be a part of the Management Team as suggested by the Labour Report.

The coalition is demanding five things  1. compensation for unlawful terminations, 2.a cut-off date for the labour complaint tribunal, 3.to unionize the prison, 4. Installation or reenlistment of all employees referred to in the report, and 5. Establishment of the Human Resource Unit to be a part of the management team at the Belize Central prison as suggested by the Labor Commissioner. Abdul Nunez tells us how the discussion on unionizing has been going.

Abdul Marin Nunez – Former Kolbe Employee:

As a part of our ongoing discussions, there is nothing inhibiting the prison from allowing its officers to be unionized.  They have that Constitutional right, and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.  There is some mischief going around in terms of trying to see that we can form an association, but there is nothing inhibiting, especially like how the prison is now under Kolby management, and the contract [says]the prison doesn’t have any oversight.  So there is nothing stopping the prison from allowing its officers to be unionized.  We need to follow up with the Minister of Labour.  The matter is in his court right now, and we are asking the Minister to please follow through.

Nunez says they are contacting all those thirty three employees who have been terminated so that they can move forward in securing proper compensation.

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