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Feb 4, 2014

The CWU versus the Belize City Mayor

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Since last week the fate of security workers declared redundant by the City Council has been under much scrutiny. Those workers received their layoff letters on January twenty-third, and the Christian Workers Union jumped into the fray soon after. The union claimed that proper procedure was not followed, and the interests of the workers had been disregarded. On Monday Mayor Darrell Bradley jumped in feet first, stating that they had done it right from the start and the Council had followed every guideline and adhered to every pertinent protocol where the redundancies were concerned. It’s basically degenerated into a back and forth, with the Labour Commissioner playing referee and the employees looking on. Following a meeting with the Mayor and the Labour Commissioner Monday afternoon, CWU president Audrey Matura-Shepherd called a press briefing today to update the media.  

FOR VIDEO CLICK HERE.

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, President, CWU

“If we can’t agree, we are being lenient. Okay, we know we are entitled to the month, but we feel that we can work it out in two weeks. If he can’t come to terms with that, then the Labour Commissioner has to step in. The law is clear that the Labour Commissioner has this power. And if they don’t do, then we have to move the courts. I don’t know how much more times to read it to unu. It says clearly you have to inform as soon as possible and no later than a month. As soon as possible and we explain it to the mayor. He was saying that when they had a strategic meeting in early 2013 that one of the problems they were looking at was that even though there were security officers on duty, items were going missing. And security officers were reporting sick and so their bill on overtime was going high. So he said those were the circumstances and there were a list of things that they were complaining about the security officers. And I said mayor, when you say those things to me that’s what the law envision as being the circumstances that existed to makes it necessary for you to declare redundancy. When you began having those problems, as soon as possible, from then you should have told the union or at least one month before you terminate these people. You didn’t do it. So the notice is important. We are not asking to be treated special. We are asking the mayor to comply with the law. And we are not even saying you will tie your hands and tell you, you can’t privatize. Clearly there is a decision needed here. We have to look at the best interests of the employee, but at the same time, our job is not to go and destroy the employer. There has to be a balancing and I think we are being reasonable. The meeting was very cordial, we were very clear as to what we want, but I don’t think our cordiality should be mistaken with us not understanding our obligations under the law.”

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