Yesterday we told you of the uniform issue that the workers at the Social Security Board have expressed via the Christian Workers Union. Their issue is that the SSB has not provided them with new uniforms within the 18-month period as was indicated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In an act of protest, the workers decided that they would go in casual clothing to work yesterday. In an interview with Doug Singh, Chairman of the Social Security Board, he says that majority of the workers have gotten their uniforms already and that the workers are now looking for a financial benefit even after they have been getting their uniforms. It is undoubtedly, a very high price to pay for uniforms and that price may have to do with the workers reportedly prefer procuring the material outside the country, having it sewn abroad and then imported to Belize. But the uniform is not the only thing that workers are demanding as Singh also told Love News that the workers have also been pressuring the SSB for an increase in their pension benefit but he says that the Board of the SSB is challenged in coming up with a pension increase for the workers when pensioners in Belize have not gotten an increase in pension since 2002.
“They’ve all gotten their uniforms. My understanding is that there might be a small handful of people that should be getting their uniforms on the 5th, today is the 5th. So, today is the delivery date for all of their uniforms and a number of them have gotten their uniforms already. So they are protesting now something that is really behind us; so, they’re looking for a financial benefit and they are looking for that benefit at the cost of the contributors of Social Security which are all the working people of this country. The Board is struggling with trying to make a recommendation for a pension benefit increase for those people who have retired that comes from the same funds that these uniform allowances come from and the Board is challenged to condone this kind of a request and demand in light of the fact that we have people out there who have not had pension increases since 2002. We are in the process of coming up with a recommendation to the Prime Minister for an increase in pension benefits but all of that is affected by the demands of the staff such as additional monies, in addition to the $277,000 just recently spent on uniforms that is quite unreasonable, I believe.”
The benefit of SSB providing uniforms for the 273 workers currently takes just over a quarter million dollars out of the tax payers’ contribution fund. The workers at SSB enjoy several other benefits as part of their salary packages. As for the Collective Bargaining Agreement, we understand that one is in the process of being negotiated with the staff through the CWU President, Audrey Matura Shepherd pushing for a salary increase. As for the protest by the workers that began yesterday, Love News understands that it continued today with a 30-minute walk out this morning at all branches and a 30-minute protest at midday countrywide. It is our understanding that a negotiation meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, October 7 in Belmopan.