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Jan 23, 2008

Labour trouble hits contractor at Vaca dam

A labour dispute has slowed work at the site of the Vaca hydroelectric facility near Benque Viejo in the Cayo District. Reports reaching News Five indicate that somewhere near eighty of the two hundred eighty workers employed on the project have been off the job since yesterday. They have complained of low wages and poor safety conditions. The majority of the labour force and strikers are contract workers brought over from Nepal. They charge that the contractor, Sino Hydro of mainland China, has violated the terms of the agreement under which they were recruited. It appears that a number of Belizean employees share their concerns and some have also stayed off the job. The Labour Department was notified yesterday and a meeting was held this afternoon between officials of Sino Hydro and the Nepalese workers. The hydro plant is being built for BECOL, a subsidiary of Belize Electricity Limited., and while BECOL Chief Stephen Usher attended today’s meeting, he made it clear that the dispute is between the Chinese contractor and its workers. Despite the walkout, the reports are that construction at the site, which operates around the clock, continues.

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