Employer says their “services are no longer needed”, but workers believe they are being targeted and are seeking intervention of Labour Dept.
Late yesterday evening, 13 employees who did not show up to work for two days in protest of an adjustment in their terms of employment that was recently implemented by their employer, Bowen & Bowen Ltd., were laid off by the company.
The group of workers – primarily deliverymen— were reluctant to sign the new work contracts issued by the company, believing that their eligibility for holiday pay, commission and benefits would be severely cut.
Apparently, the company concluded, after the employees were absent for two days that those workers had abandoned their posts without proper notification, and so they were replaced and presented with termination letters which informed them that their services were no longer required.
Today, Amandala met some of the affected employees at the Labour Department in Belize City, where they had initially gone to contest the terms of the new work contract.
Kevin Garbutt, who said that he has worked at the beverage company for 8 years, told us that they were given a new contract to sign, but they refused to do so. He said, “We didn’t sign because they were not going to pay us overtime and for holidays, which is due by law, so we got together and took it to management, but they refused to hear from us and decided to terminate us even though we have our doctor papers.”
According to Marlon Dubon, a delivery assistant, a main concern of theirs had been their overtime pay, which they feared would be limited. He added that, “Also, our commission changed from 14 cents to 4 cents for sidemen; for drivers it was 20 cents, now it’s 7 cents and that’s a dramatic reduction.”
Although the company maintains that it had not actually reduced the remuneration the workers would be receiving, but had only restructured it, the workers claim that no consultations were held by the company to guide them through the new terms and conditions so that they could have properly understood its impact.
The workers claimed that they had not yet received any termination letters and actually learned about their terminations last night through the media.
The employees therefore marched over to the Labour Department this morning in hopes of finding a listening ear for their concerns.
Although they were disgruntled, some of the workers said that they would still want to be reinstated at the company if possible.
This afternoon, we contacted Christelle Wilson, Public Relations Officer and Internal Legal Counsel at Bowen and Bowen, who told us that the company had a scheduled meeting with the Labour Department today after the employees were presented with their termination letters.
She noted that only one person signed the termination letter, which stated that they were terminated on the grounds that their services were no longer required.
Wilson explained that when the employees failed to show up for work, other people were hired in their place and stated that all payments and benefits as prescribed by the law will be paid to the terminated employees.