Today, for the third consecutive day, the Social Security Board workers in all branches across the country used their midday lunch break to picket in front of the SSB offices. In Belmopan, they were lead by their union representative Loerena Flowers, Supervisor in the legal Department at SSB, and their union executive Floyd Neal, General Secretary of the Christian Workers Union. But we’ll have more on their protest a little later on in our newscast. The main story today is that the union members of SSB staged a sickout at around 3 pm while talks between union representatives and the management of SSB were still ongoing. In Belmopan, shortly after three, we observed several staff members leaving in their vehicles as a part of the planned protest. This mass sickout occurred country wide from almost all 185 CWU members of SSB. They refused to grant us an official comment on this new protest strategy but we understand that is has to do with the boards refusal to talk about salary increases in the ongoing negotiations of a new Commercial Bargaining Agreement, the last of which expired in December 2013. Essentially, the CWU members of Social Security Board say they have not received an increase since 2011 and negotiations, they say, have not been favorable so far. Now going back to the midday protest, in Belmopan, we spoke to executive union member Floyd Neal who was flanked by the 40 plus CWU members of Social Security Board who sacrificed 30 minutes of their lunch break to protest. Neal says the union remains steadfast in their demands for payment.
Floyd Neal, General Secretary, CWU: This will continue until we get the kind of feedback that we need from management. We’re serious, we’re entitled, it’s payable, pay us our allowance.
Reporter: Now, since the start of this week have you come anyway in terms of a breakthrough in terms of negotiations?
Floyd Neal, General Secretary, CWU: Actually we are still negotiating with them. We had a session this morning and it will resume later this afternoon, but we’re doing it under duress because we don’t want them to say that the process has broken down and pin it on us. We know that’s their favourite route, but we’re prepare to engage. We will continue talking and if we need to reinforce the talking with actions such as this, our members are prepared to do that.
Reporter: What was the atmosphere in the negotiations this morning?
Floyd Neal, General Secretary, CWU: As you can imagine a little tension, but still, we’re professional on both sides of the table so we engaged in a way we need to. It didn’t went quite as well as we had hope but still, we will engage.
Reporter: Sir, previously the chairman of the SSB had said they were, was had a different interpretation of that section of that CBA. What’s your take on that?
Floyd Neal, General Secretary, CWU: We beg to differ. We have a reasonable expectation that the allowances are in fact payable based on what they have practiced in the past and we maintain that position . He is mistaken.
And with both sides holding on to their position, has the union approached the Minister of Labour to intervene? We posed the question to the General Secretary of CWU today.
Reporter: Have you guys gotten in contact with the minister of Labour in this matter?
Floyd Neal, General Secretary, CWU: Yes we have and we’ll have more to say tomorrow when we’ll have a press briefing.
Floyd Neal, General Secretary, CWU: We’re talking. *laughs* We’re talking.