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Feb 20, 2014

Redundant CitCo security workers transition to private security firm

There is concord between the Christian Workers Union and City Hall, in the wake of pointed, verbal sparring between both parties over the past two weeks. In fact, it’s a bit more accurate to say that there is quiet, because there is still extreme discontent over an alleged discrepancy in final checks paid out to twenty-five City Council employees who have been declared redundant. Several workers with whom News Five spoke to claim that they were short-changed as much as two weeks salary, and they have been given no explanation. Still, the CWU is silent…we are told out of extreme frustration, and Mayor Darrell Bradley is content, because it’s back to business as usual. Mike Rudon was at City Hall today and has an update to the story.

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Mike Rudon, Reporting

Following weeks of intense and frequently hostile discussions, City Hall and the CWU has found common ground. Details were hammered out early last week, and with compassionate packages secured, the workers declared redundant by the Council were to pick up their final paychecks on Friday. That didn’t go so well, and late that evening we found several workers standing outside City Hall claiming that they had been short-changed.

 

Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor

“The truth of the matter is that I was advised that all the calculations were correct. We have not issued any further cheque so that everybody was paid what they were entitled to Friday in terms of their statutory entitlement and there was no mistake and there was no error. And we have not gotten any letter communication from the union indicating to us that there was a problem. I’ve only heard this on the media and I think somebody said Miss Matura had mentioned it on air. But we remain committed to working with the union in a very amicable way to resolve any issues that have arise as a result of the calculations and also to ensure that there is a smooth transition into the alternative employment with the new contractor.”

 

The new security firm, Ranger Security is already on site at the council providing security services, and nineteen of the workers who were declared redundant have made what the mayor calls a peaceful transition to that company. No contract has been signed just yet, though that is in the works.

 

Darrell Bradley

Darrell Bradley

“We haven’t entered into a formal contract yet. we had indicated to the union that we wanted them involved in the process, particularly because they wanted to be satisfied in relation to certain protections being in the contract as it relates to wages given to these workers. We had to negotiate with the contractor to ensure that the method we put in place to minimize adverse impact which is alternative employment was attractive. So that we had engaged in discussion with the union in relation to other things, but our attempts to minimize adverse effect was the job. The contract has not been signed which is quite usual in these circumstances. You have people who provide private security services: you have KBH, you have AAA, you have Priority—all of whom we had contacted in this discussion to move towards a privatization. But a lot of these firms don’t have an extensive written contract. They would be billed, we have a rate that we are paying these persons, we have the areas where they are providing security services. We want to enter into a written contract with them just to set out what their obligations are and additional protection including the wage protection for workers and we want the union involved in that process.”

 

There was to have been a meeting last Friday, but that was put off because of unfortunate timing. Still the mayor maintains that the union will be a part of discussions prior to the signing of the contract, hopefully this week. During negotiations Bradley had claimed that the Council would realize savings of about three hundred thousand dollars annually because of the privatization. Despite the base salaries for security officers being increased as part of final negotiations, the mayor says that figure hasn’t changed significantly.

 

Darrell Bradley

“It’s pretty much the same. We had always committed to trying to make the offer as attractive as possible. Even before the union got involved, the City Council went the route of this particular contractor because this person had agreed at first to take everybody. And when we looked at it and when he assessed and evaluated his staff requirements, he didn’t take everybody. But we wanted originally for him to take everybody. And we wanted to ensure that they would have made the same base rate that they were paid at City Council, which is higher than market rate, or they would have made close to that figure. The union had expressed some concerns with regards to that. We had to assure them that that was the case; we had to go back to the contractor. There was a difference so that we are shelling out more in relation to that but it is not much more. And we are estimating that by the end of tomorrow or by latest on Monday, we will have a signed agreement, which the union will have an opportunity to vet. We could also disclose information in relation to the actual cost-savings.

Hiram Longsworth

What this costs the City Council will be in the agreement and I had committed that we will share that with members of the media as well so that they could be satisfied that the contract that is executed is a standard contract. It sets out he terms, it sets out the places of security, it sets out the rate and provides what the union really wanted—that guarantee and safeguard in relation to the salary to be paid to those employees.”

 

The new security firm is headed up by Hiram Longsworth, who was previously in charge of personnel at the Council’s Security Department. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

While Mayor Bradley maintains that there has been no official complaint about final checks from the CWU, late this evening CWU President Audrey Matura-Shepherd told News Five that the union has written to the Mayor every day, expressing their concern and disappointment, but there has been no response.

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