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Jul 28, 2017

Northern Fishermen Co-Op Workers Up in Arms Over Minimum Wage

Last week you heard Opposition member and Lake I Representative Cordel Hyde say that living on the minimum wage is killing the poor people in Belize. He spoke of the challenges that the working class, especially those who earn three dollars and thirty cents an hour face with increasing cost of living. It has been years since the minimum wage has increased – and those who feel it know it all too well. Today, a group of women who work at the Northern Fishermen Co-operative on North Front Street in Belize City say that working on the hourly rate of three dollars and thirty cents and in some cases three dollars and fifty cents is tough on them and they are barely surviving. They say they have been earning the same salary for years – and they have been asking for a flat rate because their wages as it stand in some cases is only paying them sixty to seventy dollars per week. The women say they are prepared to strike over the matter – especially now that it is the “slow season” at the co-op where they only work a few days and sometimes a few hours. Here’s what they had to say about earning “small change” in the slow season.

 

Gigi Bowen

Gigi Bowen, Northern Fishermen Co-op

“They promote me to Supervisor. I di mek three dollars and fifty cents an hour and I still deh pahn three dollars and fifty cents an hour and pahn wah supervisor job.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Fi seventeen years?”

 

Gigi Bowen

“Seventeen years – supervisor job with three-fifty an hour. Off season – now we work three days and I mek sixty six dollars fi the week.”

 

Carla Martinez

Carla Martinez, Northern Fishermen Co-op

“This dah weh I mek fi the week – one hundred and twelve dollars.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Talk to me about how tough it is to live on this minimum wage?”

 

Carla Martinez

“Hard because I have lotta kids and it hard and this dah every week. So we just the try stand up fi we right now.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“What do you want to see the cooperative do?”

 

Carla Martinez

“We just want deh try raise fi we pay – like give we wah flat rate because deh nuh give we flat rate. That’s all we di ask fah fi wah flat rate salary.  Every time we ask and deh just show you round; deh say go ask this one and that you need to go to the high boss and nothing.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“How many of you women are having this issue here?”

 

Carla Martinez

“Everybody and some ah we dah single parents, most.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“What are you guys prepared to do as a group?”

 

Carla Martinez

“Well, we the try strike because deh nuh the do nothing. The boss come out yah and he say he wah shut down the plant but we have to stand up fi fi we rights. Every time we go dah he, deh say go dah the next one and next one say dah he but dah just that every time.”

 

Eugenia Estrada

Eugenia Estrada, Northern Fishermen Co-op

“I been here since I was a young girl. Now, lately I diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes. I have shares in this co-op and from the highest boss know that. I been working here as a girl since nineteen years. I went to the states and came back and working here for fifteen years now.”

 

Perla Augustine

Perla Augustine, Northern Fishermen Co-op

“I got my kids deh and this nuh the work, mammy. Ih nuh the work out. Ih hard. All we di beg fah dah just the ladies deh fi get wi flat rate. We get wi flat rate we nuh have wah problem. When things slow, all weh we wah dah fi we flat rate because dis nuh the work. This dah advantage and chance. Seet yah, sixty-one dollars fi wah big woman with so much pickney. Ih nuh right, ih nuh di pay off.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, right now fi the slow season how many days of the week are you working?”

 

Perla Augustine

“Well, sometimes we work Monday, Tuesday, we work half day and we nuh work Wednesday and we come back dah work Thursday and we go and then we come back.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“And sometimes only a few hours fi the day?”

 

Perla Augustine

“Yes. But we dah seniors. We dah old heads we deserve fi we flat rate because when the container deh come and deh di push out the container, dah we do it. Why we can’t get fi we flat rate? We deserve it.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“And they still haven’t given a reason why yuh can’t get it?”

 

Perla Augustine

“Well, deh say money nuh deh. Me nuh know.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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