Yesterday they were announcing strike action as they called the media to the Belize Electricity Limited’s compound at around midday. Now, tonight the workers of BEL and the Belize Energy Workers Union are somewhat appeased as they are getting their salary increase and the Collective Bargaining Agreement is expected to be signed shortly. Today, BEL workers and the President of the BEWU, Marvin Mora met with the Labor Commissioner, Ivan Williams at the Labour Department on Albert Street in Belize City. The hour and a half meeting ended just before five o’clock this evening.
“We were asking two, two and two that’s four years starting 2015 and ending in 2018 but we had to bend a little to suit the recommendation by the Minister of Labor in the presence of the minister so we ended up with a 7.5 yearly increase across the board starting from 2015 and ending in the last increase in 2018 when would be the next negotiation date.”
Now, aside from this salary increase that has been granted to the BEL workers there is also the annual increments that are given to the workers based on a performance appraisal. According to Mora they were concerned on whether this increase that was signed upon today would have been affected.
“The issue of whether or not that increase across the board would have an impact in the already established system of appraisal increases that was ironed out as well so the increases are separate. So in addition to our increase for those people who do get because some do and some don’t depending on where they are on the scale and depending on more than anything else depending on the level of salary that they have so that plays a role as well. So those increases will be separate in addition to the across the board increase so we believe we got a very good deal and we also believe that without the intervention of the ministry and Prime Minister at the end we wouldn’t have been able to complete this.”
According to Mora, the quality of the customer service is not one that is being overlooked as the union
“BEL in terms of customer service is on par with utilities of similar caliber and even sometimes exceeding. Our performance results in terms of customer care are really up there and it’s because of the love for the job that our people have. Most of the people that work at BEL really appreciate the job that they do so that is not going to be an issue. What we would definitely request from the employees at this point in time would be for the employees to look at personal development so that basically would be one of the things that the union will be focusing on.”
Mora told the media that the meeting yesterday evening with the Prime Minister went smoothly as Barrow was already aware of their requests. Meanwhile, this afternoon, the Belize Electricity Limited issued a release, stating, in part, quote, “The Company approved the following terms and conditions of the points of agreement, which were mediated by the Prime Minister of Belize on Tuesday, September 29, 2015: (1) The Company shall pay all its employees a 1.75% yearly across the board salary increase for the next four years, not tied to the current performance appraisal system and retroactive to January 1, 2015. This increase is in addition to those increases related to the performance appraisal system. (2) The retroactive increase in salary is only applicable to base salary (3) The Company shall, upon signing the MOA, match the contribution of all employees paying 10% of their salary into the BEL Pension Fund. (4) The Company agrees to an annual 1% lift in pension matching contribution up from 6% to 10% commencing 2015 for all employees who opt to increase their pension contribution accordingly. The signing of this MOA is expected to pave the way for completion of negotiations for a revised Partnership Collective Agreement in the coming weeks.” End of quote. Of the two hundred plus workers at BEL, one hundred and fifty of them are members of the Belize Energy Workers Union.