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Jan 30, 2003

Unions complain that B.T.L. plans layoffs

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Union members at B.T.L. and their colleagues nationwide today served notice that they are not at all happy with some changes the company has in store for its labour force. Jacqueline Woods has the story.

Paul Perriott, Trustee, B.C.W.U.

“Well right now at the time we are faced with a mass lay-off of staff. We had sat, approximately two weeks ago, which was the seventeenth of January with management, Mr. Boyce, and he had disclosed that the layoffs were not going to start without us, the union, being involved, or being told as to what would have happened before; we asked for an advanced notice.”

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

But four days ago, when the B.C.W.U. and B.T.L.’s management met they were confronted with the news that the entire security staff would lose their jobs…as the company’s management has decided to outsource the task to K.B.H.

Dwight Gentle, Acting President, B.C.W.U.

“They say they want to implement a new system where they want to retrench everybody and put them back on, hire back some of them under contract.”

Christine Perriott, Treasurer, B.C.W.U.

“In the forum we had, the seventeenth, before, there was a rumour that there would retrench thirty employees by the end of the month. And we brought it up at the forum and they told us that they are not aware of it, they don’t know about it and no such thing will happen.”

According to the B.C.W.U. and the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, the action is in contravention of the collective agreement made between B.T.L. Management and the B.C.W. union.

Lawrence Nicholas, President, N.T.U.C.B.

“The union hasn’t had the opportunity to dialog in part what the plans of B.T.L. are. B.T.L. has just proceeding with their plans without consultation with their people. Two days is not sufficient time to inform people of an impending action. It appears that it’s being a systematic termination of employment of these people. That’s not the way to go. The collective bargaining agreement suggests that they should respect that the union should be informed, have appropriate time to reciprocate and respond. This is not happening.”

As a result of B.T.L.’s actions, the B.C.W.U. has not only sought support and solidarity with the N.T.U.C.B. but in addition all B.T.L. staff are presently on a “work to rule”, meaning the employees are working only their normal hours and not a minute more. If B.T.L.’s management fails to comply with the union’s request, then they will serve a notice of intention to institute a strike action within twenty-one days.

Antonio Gonzales, Executive member, N.T.U.C.B.

“We are requesting a copy of all proposals and plans for restructuring of staff at B.T.L. before any further action is taken. We are requesting an accordance with article two point five of the collective agreement the company respects and cooperates with the union and its employees to promptly discuss with the union its proposed changes which will affect the general conditions of service of employees. We therefore, as a matter of course, must discuss the company’s proposal to terminate the services of employees. We must also be put in a position to offer counterproposals for outsourcing using current services to avoid any mass retrenchment. The termination of package of workers needs discussion and agreements. That management of B.T.L. respects the labour laws of Belize, the I.L.O. conventions and the letter and spirit of the trade unions and employers organisation recognition act 2000.”

This evening a meeting was scheduled between B.T.L. management and the security staff. According to the B.C.W.U., at that meeting the employees would have been given their termination letters. But the union has advised them not to accept the papers and to go ahead and report to work on Friday. Jacqueline Woods for News 5.

The outsourcing of jobs like security, maintenance and janitorial services is increasingly common around the world and it appears that Belize is no exception.

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