The union members employed at the Belize Electricity Limited were at it again today during their lunch break demanding that the management takes heed to their request of eight point two salary increase among other things. Love News was with those over thirty employees who held up placards asking for a stop to the exaggerated perks of senior management and that their raise be granted. We spoke with President of the Belize Energy Workers Union, Marvin Mora.
“The last time we spoke you were not at liberty to discuss the agreement talking about there was some sort of non-disclosure understanding between you and management. You’ve basically come out where did that failure happen, who dropped the ball in terms of negotiations and where did that failure occur?”
“Actually, we can put that blame squarely on the shoulders of management even though they are claiming that the union walked out. The union never did walk out of any negotiations. We got to the point where we had placed all our proposals on the table and management did not make one single proposal and we are referring only to the proposals that have financial impact on the company. We’ve done all the presentations for those and when we presented we were waiting for management to make a counter proposal. Instead management told us ‘ Well this is the amount of money that we are willing to invest and beyond that we are not ready to go so you can take it or leave it’. Basically that was the situation in the negotiation room so the union had no other option but to tell them that we were going to recluse ourselves into caucus and that we expect them to formulate some counter proposals to our proposals so that in effect we have a negotiation because it cannot be a negotiation if one side is making proposals and the other side says ‘this is what I have to invest and if you take it or leave it then that is up to you’. So we waited in caucus for them to call us in so that we can actually have counter proposals from them and it never did happen then they turned around and claimed that the union walked out of negotiations. Later on they also claimed that we did a sick out, well they have their opinion and also there is the fact that we have that right if we feel bad we don’t come to work and we don’t have to provide a certificate and now they are going to take that away in a sort of vindictive manner from the trade union as a condition for them to give us what they were proposing after they had made no proposals. They came with one counter proposal and that’s basically what the union said, they said, ”we’ll take that” … but they are saying, ‘no, we can’t give you this unless you meet two proposals; one of them is the un-certified day sick and the other one is actually taking up the vesting period for the pension because the vesting periods were back down when the Fortis Company was exiting and government took over and that was basically a management issue anyway because the union even though the union’s rep signed, the union basically didn’t know about it. We were not consulted there was no consultation so in a nutshell management has been doing what they want from ever since and the union has always tried to hold back. If you notice we are protesting during lunch so that we don’t disturb our customers. They talk about customers these are the faces the customers see on the front-line everyday – linemen, transmission distribution techs, customer service people – these are the actual faces of BEL.”
According to Mora, since their protest began on Monday, they have received some response, particularly from the Minister of Labor, Godwin Hulse.
“Well today we kinda saw little response on behalf of government. We received a call from the Minister of Labor, Godwin Hulse. We will consider it amongst the union and then we are going to respond to him in the evening as to whether or not we accept his invitation. He has invited the union to make his case with him and probably he plans to take it from there in some sort of mediation situation. We still have to consider that and we still have to decide what we are going to do next but as you notice there is a cadre of workers here and not only the executive; it’s past the executive and more are coming that already realized that this is a serious fight that the company is putting the union into and the union will react as you have seen it’s not only Marvin standing by himself.”
Just in case you have not been following the plight of the BEL employees, we asked Mora to explain what it is that they are seeking.
“The union is requesting an eight point two percent across the board in the next four years 2 percent every single year. That is basically the biggest request that the union is making from the company. All the other figures that you see there ballooning and all the other things they are showing are absolute nonsense.”
Love News understands that Minister Godwin Hulse will be meeting with the Belize Electricity Limited tomorrow and that meeting will be followed by a meeting with the union members at around two o’clock.