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Aug 19, 2020

Senate Debate Gets Heated Over Amendment of Labor Laws

Elena Smith

The amendment to the Labour Bill was also passed today in the Senate.  The amendment has attracted major opposition from several unions, including the National Trade Union Congress of Belize. The bill looks at providing employers the ability to reduce wages where the working hours of an employee have been reduced in special circumstances. It also aims to provide leave of absence without pay and exemptions from the period of night rest. The two key points have caused much anxiety among employees and by extension the unions. The Belize Communications Workers’ Union today placed on record its opposition to the amendment, stating that the Labour Laws of Belize should be amended so that it protects the right of the employees and not only the employers.  The unions’ position is that the government failed to conduct consultations or table the amendment at the Labour Advisory Board where the Unions could have made meaningful contributions. This was reiterated by Union Senator Elena Smith.


Elena Smith, Senator for Unions

“We feel that had we done some consultation on this matter before bringing it here we would have been able to present today a bill that would be more acceptable by both parties, employers and employees. We feel that this bill before us in a way sort of dividing and conquering both groups in the way we view what is before us. So when we look at the one sixteen, two speaks to the gross weekly wages of workers shall not be reduced as a result of the reduction of maximum weekly hours. That is the original. The amendment here is speaking to not withstanding that the employer may with the agreement of the employee. SO it doesn’t mean that the employer must get the in our view any agreement from the employee. He may. The employer will try and if he employee doesn’t want the employer will still do what he or she wants to do.”


Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, U.D.P. Senator

“I genuinely and respectfully suggest to the N.T.U.C.B. for whom the senator makes representations for her for them to get a lawyer to advice them in certain things. When you are a major organization like that you would have an attorney or attorneys on board to support you and advice you because this bill to me mister president except with the omission of maybe a comma that is see could be put there is as clear as clear can be and keeps everything as is and it can only change if the two sides agree. Now what can be better than that. In other words, no employer can take any steps contemplayed in this amendment without the employee agreeing where the employer may, notice the comma, with the agreement with the employee, another comma. So when we go to committee we can put the comma. So the employees have to agree.”


Michel Chebat

Michel Chebat, Lead P.U.P. Senator

“As an attorney you will know mister president that may means may. It doesn’t mean must and there is a difference and so I want to say, one I understand that this land is limited to two particular situations. It is very clear. There is no question about that. However Mister President, there is the flip of the may and that flip side is that I as employee do not agree to take lesser hours. I as an employee to do not agree to go on leave. What then happens? And I think that is where the anxiety lies. Is it then Mister President that the employers say you are fired? Is that what we are aiming for?”

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