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Feb 3, 2014

Belize City Mayor says there is no going back for the security guards fired from City Hall

Mayor Darrell Bradley is back in town and let’s just say he is not ecstatic about insinuations that his Council treated employees of the Security Department unfairly. The posts of thirty-six employees of the City Council were declared redundant via letter on January twenty-third. The redundancy came about as a result of the privatization of the Council’s Security Department, which was contracted to City Hall employee, Hiram Longsworth. The CWU came out swinging from the onset, alleging that the proper process had not been followed. And in a press conference last Friday, the union declared a victory of sorts, following intervention by the Labour Commission at its behest. But all that is a different version of events than that being told by the Mayor. News Five caught up with him this morning and Mike Rudon has the other side of that story.

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Mike Rudon, Reporting

Mayor Darrell Bradley confirms that the decision was made to privatize the Council’s Security Department in December, in an effort to cut costs and because there were some problems with certain employees. But he says that twenty-six and not thirty-six posts have been declared redundant. And contrary to what has been put out by the CWU, the Mayor says they did the right way from the start.

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, President, Christian Workers Union [File: January 30, 2014]

“The law envisions that when you realize that this might happen, you have to contact the union, contact the labor department so that you show them why it is necessary, you give them the names of the people that are likely affected; you work out with them deals or whatever package you could to assist these people. It never happened. The law makes it clear that you need to do that. We did not find out or become aware of the situation until last week.”

 

Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor

“I want to make this very clear. This is not an easy situation for us and neither is it an easy situation for staff members. Whenever you are talking about people’s entitlement and their jobs, there is a lot of worry and rightly so. So the concern that erupted was as a result of the process – you’re privatizing, you’re outsourcing, you’re firing twenty-six people – people are concerned about that and rightly so. So the Christian Workers Union wrote us and we wrote them back the exact same day. We wrote the Labour Commissioner, we had a meeting with all of our staff, we listened to all of their concerns…so that one of the things we are doing also is that staff who have been with us for a significant period of time…we are going to ensure that those ones who have a good record with the Council – we are keeping them. We have employment as park wardens now…we have three spots for that. So we are transitioning some people over into other alternatives in the City Council…we can’t do that for everybody.”

 

Darrell Bradley

Bradley says that what the employees really want is for things to go back to how it was, and that’s not possible. The decision has been made and there is no going back. The Mayor claims that the Labour Commissioner has been along every step of the way, and even the redundancy letter given to employees was based on a template provided by the Labour Department. And, he says, there is no need to give thirty days notice.

 

Darrell Bradley

“That is not the case in law. If you read the law, the law says that the notice period – I think this is Section forty-five of the Labour Amendment Act—the first sub-paragraph of that says that any employer can make any employee redundant, and the notice period is the same notice period that is contained in Section thirty-seven of the Labour Act. So that if I want to make you redundant, I will give you the same notice as if I wanted to terminate you or any kind of dismissal. So that that notice does not change. There is no requirement for us to give anybody an addition thirty days notice.”

 

The Security Department has been privatized, and the contract will be given to current Security Manager Hiram Longsworth. The council did not offer the contract to established firms, and the Mayor says there is a good reason for that.

 

Darrell Bradley

“I could bid it, but if I bid it and KBH gets that contract, KBH has security officers. They are not going to hire our staff. The reason why we did this is to ensure that whoever takes it can take on the twenty people. The exact reason that we did it was for their benefit.”

 

The new security firm, when the contract is signed, has undertaken to hire twenty of the twenty-six persons being let go from the Council. That commitment hasn’t been written in indelible ink, but Mayor Bradley says his word is just as good, and you’ll just have to be satisfied with that for now.

 

Darrell Bradley

Darrell Bradley

“The issue that we are talking about is good faith. I represented certain things to members of the staff, I represented certain things to the Labour Commissioner, I represented certain things in my response to a letter that Mr. Neal wrote me. And I mentioned this; that this person is going to take on these staff members. They said, well we don’t trust that because we need to see that in black and white. I am the Mayor. I am telling you that this is what is to be done. If you can’t trust me then why the heck are we talking?”

 

Reporter

“But as an attorney you know the value of having things in black and white…”

 

Darrell Bradley

“No, no, no, no, no, no man, no, no, no. I am telling you that Monday you will be employed by one person, and Tuesday you will be employed by somebody else. If I deh tell you this and it doesn’t happen, vote me out of office. I am giving you my word.”

 

Reporter

“But we all know that politicians lie…”

 

Darrell Bradley

“Well fair enough, then I am lying. I di lie to you! They will not be hired. I am telling you that I sat down with these people. I discussed in-depth with these people. We made it a condition that they take on these staff. We went through the individual files for each of these staff. They told us we will take this one, and this one and this one. In total it was twenty of the twenty-six. We indicated to these people who are going to be retained; we indicated who is going to go home. All of this is part of the planning process.”

 

January thirty-first was to be the last day of work for the twenty-six employees. They have been given an extension to Friday to allow for full interaction between the Council, the CWU and the workers. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

Mayor Bradley states that the Council will save at least three hundred thousand dollars annually from the privatization of the Security Department. The contract for the new security firm will be valued at approximately four hundred thousand dollars, and should be signed within a week.

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