And while everything was keen and peachy at the Laing Building this morning, at City Hall the Belize City Mayor Bernard Wagner found himself in a situation with the Christian Workers Union (CWU). The union wants the Mayor to sign onto a Collective Bargaining Agreement before his term ends. Mayor Wagner, however, is adamant that he will budge at the whims of the Christian Workers Union. The CWU wrote to the Belize City Council demanding that they respond with their counterproposal to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The Christian Workers Unions sent their proposal in October 2019 and have been awaiting a response since. The council has stated that they are willing to negotiate and work with the CWU, but not until the municipal elections are over. The union countered and told the Mayor, that that will just not work. The Mayor, however, does seem to have a pragmatic explanation. He says that the does not want to enter into an agreement at this stage that may pose financial strains or responsibilities for the next elected council. Wagner says he is seeking re-election but is not taking anything for granted.
Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: The situation is that this council remains committed to engage with the Christian Workers Union and we recognize that until a new collective bargaining agreement is signed and in place that the terms and conditions of the existing agreement remain in place. We – I read the letter the press release that they say we are treating them unfair and disrespectful and it’s far from that actually because when we received their proposal in late 2019 we put together a working committee to review and draft a counter proposal to their collective bargaining agreement. And so that committee met in February of 2020 and we were well on our way to beginning those negotiations, we had planned another date for another follow up meeting but you know what came after that man March 2020 COVID set in. We lost a worker here at City Hall. This council from the outset has made a decision not to bind any future mayor, any future council with last minute contracts, with last minute CBAs this is what got us in trouble, this is what has the government in trouble right now you know ? Because we have – I could go right now and I can go sign this agreement what commits probably a raise for staff I could go right now and commit through a CBA raise for union members 100% and so that decision alone will commit the next mayor and the next council this is what gets us in trouble every single time. This is what the trouble that we’re in with all the other entities in government and this council is hell bent that we don’t want go go down that road. We don’t have any intention to do so. So we give them the March 31 deadline at that point in time the new mayor or the new council will be in office to sit down and negotiate a fair collective bargaining agreement. Listen my City Administrator, just to show you, my City Administrator’s contract expires March 31. We as a council have made it a commitment that we will not extend contracts beyond our term. My City Engineer’s contract expires March 31. This is not by just us wanting to say it this is by design, it’s by design; everything we do is by design and to ensure that we are always transparent and accountable to the people. You are saying to an outgoing council come hell or high water we want this CBA to be signed now and commit a future mayor and a future council to financial obligations ? I’m not doing it I’m sorry.”
The union also rose concerns about the transferring of Union representatives without consultation which reportedly goes in contravention of the current CBA that remains valid. Mayor Wagner, contradicted the union saying that there is no such point on the current CBA has that written.
Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “That is contrary to the CBA. The CBA that we have in place has nothing to do with transfer. Does not require us to consult with the union before transferring any member of staff whether they’re union members or whether they are ordinary workers. Management always reserves the right to ensure that we put in place the proper fit that we find and align career paths of our employees so that we as a council and as an organization always work in an efficient manner and we always as management reserve that right to be able to put employees and align them with their career path and align them so that they are successful in their careers and that the council and the city works in an efficient manner.”
CWU has formally shared these grievances with the Labor Department and the Ministry of Labor. Love News will continue to follow this story.