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May 8, 2014

BEWU challenges redundancy of 4 B.E.L. employees

The Belize Electricity Workers Union and Belize Electricity Limited are at odds tonight over the fate of four long-standing employees.  Come May seventeenth, a team of plant operators, stationed at the company’s mile-eight facility, will be unemployed following a decision to make their respective jobs redundant.  In 2012, the government-owned utility transitioned from operating its gas turbine manually to controlling the standby generator from its dispatch building on the Phillip Goldson Highway. The automation of the facility has resulted in the jobs becoming unnecessary. While B.E.L. executives say that an offer was made to have the workers trained and subsequently relocated, that proposal was flatly rejected.  The ensuing breakdown in negotiations between the union and the employer led to the intervention of Labor Commissioner Ivan Williams.  Two years later, that decision is coming into effect and, as expected, it is being met with objection from the BEWU.  Earlier today, union executives made their media rounds to voice their discontent with the manner in which the issue is being handled.

 

Marvin Mora, Vice President, BEWU

Marvin Mora

“Currently we have just come out of the signing of a [Memorandum Of Understanding] where we clearly stated that we are not in agreement with the company wanting to make the positions redundant.  Moreover, we still acknowledge that the company does have the right to make the position redundant if they want; however, the union insists that this is not something wise for them to do for two major reason, the first being that, of course, we have to ensure that the guys who are there do have a job.  These are four employees who, at least, or the minimum years of service would be about twenty.  So all of them are over twenty years of service at B.E.L.  And then you also have the issue of being able to bring back the system which is after a total shutdown.”

 

Henry Balan

Henry Balan, President, BEWU

“In the mediation the management from the company indicated that they have the system [operating] by remote.  But this weekend right here, the guys, well not even the guys, the equipment has proven them wrong again because I believe people in the west felt the power outage and there again we have the guys needed to be there.  The system needed to be rebooted and without the presence of those guys, you wouldn’t have had that big, major power outage, I mean it could have been even faster, you know.  Imagine if those guys weren’t there.”

 

Sean Nicholas, Member, BEWU

Sean Nicholas

“It’s not only these four employees we are looking at, it’s also the consumer and Belize on a whole.  We believe that if these four guys are not there, in case of emergency you could have prolonged blackout.  So it’s not only looking at the four guys who will be made redundant, it’s the country on a whole we’re looking at, the consumers we are looking at, because I can’t understand a company who has their only capability and owns this gas turbine and you will remove that capability and remove the operator. You [need to] remember that this is a thirty million dollar investment, if you move the operator and you move all the resources capable for your own, the country’s own capability and put that in Mexico’s hands or BECOL’s hands like they said, we can be held hostage and this is where we want to reach the public.”

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