The case of these fifteen workers is a classic example of what thousands of Belizeans have been facing since the Covid-19 pandemic. Many have had their salaries cut and in some cases, later fired from their jobs without proper compensation. We sought clarity on this matter from Attorney Elrington with a view of understanding the legal rights of workers.
Orson “OJ” Elrington, Attorney at Law: “If you remember last year during the pandemic I believe it was in February or March don’t hold me to that, there was an amendment to the Labor Act which allowed for – before that amendment employers could not by law reduce the pay of individuals. So you Renee as an employee of Love FM they could not by law reduce your pay however that amendment last year allowed for the employees and the employers because basically the employers said well it is either we reduce the pay or we’re going to have to let go of the persons all together so there was an amendment made which allowed for employees and employers to agree and that agreement had to be in writing and once that is done then that period would be that you’re at a new reduced salary. However if that is not done as has been done with several other employers and I have other clients who have had this deferred payment and the employers have paid off the deferred payment when they chose to terminate the employment of the individual. So what happens at that point in time is that the calculations need to be based on what is your salary. If you were working for twenty years and last year in year 19 they asked that your pay be reduced to half the amount how fair would it be for them to say that well your severance package is going to be based on $500 as opposed to $1,000 right ? So what should happen is that if they do determine to sever that contractual arrangement – if Renee was making $1,000 and now she choses to make $500 by agreement the proper and the right thing and the legal thing to do is that Renee’s severance package up to year 19 should be calculated and now you are in a new contract because you Renee agreed that you’re ready to enter into a new contract short term and therefore you enter into a new contract so that severance package should have been based on 19 years of employment and you have a new period of employment now.”