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Sep 26, 2008

Energy Workers Union accuses BEL of union-busting

Story PictureBelize Electricity Limited and its Energy Workers Union are at it again. This morning the union fired off a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to intercede on their behalf with the utility company. The five-point document was carbon copied to the Minister of Labour, Labour Commissioner, National Trade Union Congress, and B.E.L. Chief Executive Officer Lynn Young. It accuses the company of union busting, reneging on commitments made in a M.O.U. and Partnership Collective Agreement. But one of its biggest beefs appears to be the closure of the Magazine Road, the Belmopan Generating Plant and the scale back of usage hours of Mobile Units, which resulted in some employees being made redundant. BEWU President Sean Nicholas told us this evening that the union met with B.E.L. management last Friday to voice their recommendations on what can be done about the seven employees who would fall victim to the closure. But on Tuesday Nicholas says they were informed that there were no options for the employees and that same day they were give their letters of redundancy.

Sean Nicholas, President, BEWU
“In the collective agreement it states that if there is a time that the company do need to do these, it will consult with the union and make all effort possible to avoid this retrenchment or redundancy as the case may be. The union has pinpoint that to the company, shown areas where employees are willing to give up their position for employees who want to stay. In our view, management do absolutely nothing to find areas to put these employees. We feel company is just attacking management by not even looking and by the outright closure of the plant because the union see, as in the letter to the prime minister, that the plant could be a backup plan for B.E.L. if in case the power fails while the employees could work in other areas and if when they need the employees, they could bring them back to the plant when the power fails.”

Kendra Griffith
“Why did you all feel compelled to go to the PM with these issues?”

Sean Nicholas
“We met with the Assistant Labour Commissioner yesterday. We had just been down this road a couple months ago with B.E.L. and we feel B.E.L. will not change unless they get pressured and the government steps in, the Prime Minister basically.”

Nicholas says they have received confirmation that the Prime Minister has received the letter. When News Five contacted B.E.L. Corporate Communications Manager Dawn Sampson, she told us that the company started closing its diesel generating plants back in 1990 in an effort to slowly reduce their dependency on oil. Sampson says the Caye Caulker plant will be the only one in the country to be fully operational and that they informed their workers as early as 2005 about the closures when the Chalillo Dam came online. As a backup and emergency supply, Sampson says they have the gas turbine, the Belmopan station, and seven mobile units. In respect of the workers, she says B.E.L. attempts to transfer them where possible to other departments and did so for nineteen employees, but six were made redundant.

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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