The staff of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Authority (KHMHA) has formed a union called the KHMH Workers Union. It came as part of one of the deliverables of a memorandum of understanding signed in 2015 between the Board of Governors of the KHMHA, the staff’s Ad Hoc Committee and the Government. The road to recognition was not an easy one as industrial action and cancelling of Saturday clinics a few years ago helped the ad hoc committee gain a seat at the bargaining table that did not once exist. Love News spoke to the new President Lidia Blake Alpuche and Vice President Andrew Baird about the future of the union and the 630 plus employees of the KHMHA.
Andrew Baird – Vice President, KHMH Workers Union: “From 2015 we started the formulation of our union, we registered the union with the companies registry in accordance with the Laws of Belize and we continue the work up until yesterday when we finally reached the last leg of getting our bargaining rights to be the sole bargaining agent for the staff or the bargain units here at Karl Heusner. That was done here without any challenges from any other union per say that they have any interest in being the staff representatives bargaining agent as well. So basically, that is a synopsis of how we reached where we are at. I must say during the time that we were formulating the union, there have been some ups and downs that we had in reference to a labor dispute with the management of Karl Heusner of which we amicably resolved those issues and were able to move forward. Now that we have our bargaining rights we now look forward to formulating a CBA which each party will be able to agree upon.”
Jose Sanchez: “Does this mean that you now represent all the staff? How big is the staff at the KHMH?”
Lidia Alpuche Blake, President, KHMH Workers Union: “KHMH has over six hundred and thirty plus employees. We have on hand directed to the Labor department, over four hundred and fifty official members.”
Jose Sanchez: “Are you now a part of the NTUCB for example?”
Lidia Alpuche Blake, President, KHMH Workers Union: We have been preparing for these three years, we have been working as Adhoc establishing the union, getting everything. We have been lobbying, we have been doing our research and one of the first things is setting up a bank account and everything so we can do legal transactions and everything, the second step is getting in as a member of the NTUCB. We have been approached by our fellow brothers and sisters from the Christian’s Workers Union, the Social Security Workers Union which is affiliated with CWU, BNTU, PSU and Nursing Association of Belize. We have been part, I was the President of the Nursing Association of Belize in 2009 – 2011 so I have been there, I was an active member of the PSU in my younger years and been an affiliate unionist at heart. This union now will not only encompass one section like just the Nursing Association, the BNTU, just the nurses, the doctors and certain categories of staff. This union encompasses everybody that works at Karl Huesner, from the janitor up to administration so we will have representation. We have the representation on the executive of all levels of staff. The union is for each and every staff that toils this institution to be respected and compensated for what they do. We are the national referral hospital, everything comes here, we must do what we have to do with whatever we do. At times we have to adjust, re adjust but we complete doing. We just want to be paid, compensated, given our perks for what we do here.”
The Certificate of Recognition was signed by Mr. Gabriel Martinez, Chairman of the Tripartite Body, and witnessed by Ms. Anne Marie Thompson, Labour Commissioner; Ms. Michelle Hoare, Chief Executive Officer for Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital; Mrs. Lidia Blake, Union President; and other representatives of the Hospital, Union, Tripartite Body and the Labour Department. The union president told us that one of the first tasks the organization faces is to work on ensuring members can receive pensions.