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Mar 4, 2019

C.W.U. Takes on S.S.B. over Staff’s Pension Plan

There is unease at the Social Security Board. This is according to the Christian Workers Union. This morning staff members who are union members participated in an in-office protest across the country. The staff is not happy with what it describes as “the uncertainty that now permeates the staff of Belize’s Social Security Board.” Staff members say they have been left in the dark regarding the S.S.B. Executive’s plans to convert the staff’s pension scheme to a private company. The C.W.U. says it is dissatisfied with how the process is being handled. The union says it is extremely concerned about the ‘quality of the consultation which should have preceded this initiative’. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

An organized in office ‘show of solidarity’, was heard in Social Security Board branches countrywide. Employees who are members of the Christian Workers Union expressed their dissatisfaction with how the SSB has approached the proposal of converting the staff’s Pension Scheme to a private company. Members say they have been left in the dark and they need answers to their questions.


Leonora Flowers

Leonora Flowers, Chief Union Rep., C.W.U.

“We don’t know. That is what we are saying. We don’t know what’s going to happen so they owe us the duty of care, reason and responsibility to tell us, provide us a legal opinion that will state the pros and cons in transitioning into a company. We know enough that there has been one pension scheme her in the country that has folded shortly after it became a company. Why do that to us? We have paid into this fund his 1992 for some people.”


Hipolito Novelo

“So the fear is that it might flop?”


Leonora Flowers

“It may very well flop. We don’t know. The pros and the cons have not been discussed. The Board of Trustees said that we will provide the opinion. I personally asked for opinions from several attorneys. They gave us a figure. The Board of Trustees said that we will contribute one half of that figure to provide for that legal opinion. We said to them that you don’t contribute anything from our pension scheme. You pay what needs to be paid. We have not heard a response from them. We have put skin into the game. We have monies that we have contributed out of our salaries every month since we began working with Social Security, since we became permanent staff. Who wants to see all that go down the drain?”


Hipolito Novelo

“If the pros and cons are provided to the members and if the pros outweigh the cons, would you support?”


Leonora Flowers

“Of course we would. We are not out here to protest for protest sake. We are extremely concern about this.”


S.S.B. C.E.O., Dr. Colin Young, says that the Union’s actions were unnecessary and not in line with the process agreed to in the C.B.U.


Colin Young

Dr. Colin Young, C.E.O., S.S.B.

“When these types of activities occur, the Collective Bargaining Agreement prescribes very clearly as to the steps that ought to be taken to resolve these issues In this case unfortunately the C.W.U. has opted to step outside of this agreement by elevating this potential action to where it is. They wrote us on Friday of last week. I got a letter I think somewhere in mid afternoon   regarding their concerns about this particular issue. We have, this is on business day not even a whole day being been given the opportunity to respond and yet these actions are being taken.”


According to Dr. Young, since last year the settler of the trust has been desirous of registering the staff pension fund as a trust cooperation.  Dr. Young says that as it stands now, the assets of the trust are held in individual names.


Dr. Colin Young

“And if something happens to a staff, then there are issues about how do you transfer assets. There are two things. There is the registration of the pension deed and there is also the conversion into a trust company. The advantage of that is twofold. First is that the trust corporation will hold the assets of the staff pension fund, the beneficiaries, in perpetuity. It does not die. And two, the beneficiaries are still the staff. Currently the new pension act requires that there is only four directions. We currently have five. When we registered this as a trust corporation, the trust corporation becomes the trustee, holds the assets and exists in perpetuity and then the trustee then appoints the current directors. So nothing changes. The union I felt was being a little disingenuous because since October of last year when this issue was raised we sent an email to the Board of Trustee secretary informing them, they asked for time to consult the membership. From October of last year, we wrote and said to them take the tie you need to consult with your staff and get back to us.”


C.W.U. President Evan Mose Hyde is demanding that the S.S.B. executive halt the conversion of the Pension Scheme after the Deed has been registered. He says today’s ‘sound of solidarity’ was not a declaration of war but rather ‘seriousness’.


Hipolito Novelo

“Is this a message to the executive, a warning?”


Evan ‘Mose’ Hyde

Evan ‘Mose’ Hyde, President, C.W.U

“I won’t use the word warning. I think what we are sending is a message of seriousness and responsibility, willingness to deal with this via proper, respectful communication but we must deal with it adequately and properly. We want that message understood by management. We are not declaring war. We are declaring seriousness. What we are seeing is that our members are saying that we want to be heard, we wanted to responsibly get your attention so we started out with a little song. We call it the sound of solidarity because we want to be minimally disruptive. There is a job here to do and we do understand. Our members are committed to the path forward in creating a stable fund. What we will not be is your scapegoat of convenience where under the theme of efficiently and sustainable they carry a disproportionate share of the burden and pain. There is zero tolerance for that.”


Hipolito Novelo, News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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