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Apr 28, 2017

S.S.B. Employees Rally, But Management Unbowed

While employees of the Corozal Free Zone stayed away for a second day due to issues with management of C.E.O. Valentino Blanco, employees of all Social Security Board branch offices country-wide showed up to work today in their union t-shirts, as they did last week. They intended to send a message to higher ups that they are unhappy about management’s proposal for a cut in benefits and a delay in the conclusion of a new collective bargaining agreement. They also want a pay raise. But while nothing was done about the protest last week, today the Board enforced its dress code rules, necessitating intervention from Dale Trujeque, president of the Christian Workers Union, who represents the S.S.B.’s employees. He says the workers wanted a way to show their displeasure without actually affecting work at the institution. This afternoon, S.S.B. Chair, Doug Singh, offered clarification from management’s perspective. His counter-argument to News Five is that Trujeque’s and the workers’ actions are improper and imperil worker-management relationships.

 

Dale Trujeque

Dale Trujeque, President, Christian Workers’ Union

“Today, unlike last week, management has become stricter; today they decided they would ask our members to leave, who are wearing the shirts; they needed to go home and change. And I know they look at that as giving the staff a lawful instruction, and I understand that that’s what the handbook says that management can do if you don’t show up in your uniform. And our view is to tell them, stay; because there was another option for us to do a go-slow, which affects productivity. We did not want to do anything that would affect the productivity of the staff and the work for the S.S.B. We felt the easiest way to do it would be to wear the t-shirt – nobody gets hurt, their work gets done. But if wearing the t-shirt is an issue, then let us talk rather than you push us to implement measures that will affect the productivity. I came over, because members were texting me and telling me, ‘Listen, we need fi go, dehn di come back round again.’ And so I came over and I had just had a meeting with the branch manager, and she was really kind to receive me because she could have refused to see me, that’s the position people can take. She was kind to see me – that’s Miss Dakers – and she explained their position and I explained ours, and she reminded me that they are the employer and I respect that fully. And I know they are acting within their right; and I told them, ‘We are not working under normal circumstances; under normal circumstances the staff shows up, you send him home to change his shirt.’ These are not normal circumstances. We need to try and conclude this agreement; we need to move past the impasse over this vacation issue and this cost-cutting issue that will affect our membership negatively.”

 

Doug Singh

Doug Singh, Chair, Social Security Board

“The Union has never advised the Board at Social Security that we were at an impasse; which would be the normal process. If you believe that the negotiating process is not being fruitful and is not getting to an end, then you would advise and you would give notice of actions that you plan on doing. We have received no notice of action. In fact, last week Friday some employees came in protest t-shirts and they did again this Friday. There has been no formal notification to the Board of the reason for wearing these t-shirts, which would be the normal process that one would undertake. As a result of that, Management exercised what it legally can because within the Handbook, t-shirt is not an acceptable dress code for the institution. And there are remedies: the individuals are asked to change their t-shirt, and if they are unable to change t-shirt and they have to leave to change their t-shirt, then they are asked to leave to change their t-shirt. The rules also provide for a deduction of a half a day’s wage as a result if they had to leave to change their t-shirt, because they should not have come in it in the first place. Management exercised that option, and later met with the union representatives and indicated to them, well, we’re not going to deduct the half-day salary, but we would like to ask that this be contained and that we continue through with the negotiating process as scheduled.”

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