General — 21 February 2014 — by Kareem Clarke

Although 19 of the 26 security workers whose jobs were made redundant by the Belize City Council (CitCo) have already transitioned into employment with the new, privately-owned security firm, Rangers Security, Amandala understands that none of those workers have yet gotten new offer letters with their new terms of employment, and neither have all of the 26 workers received the full range of benefits that they have been promised.

This morning, two of those workers, accompanied by the president of the Christian Workers Union (CWU), Audrey Matura-Shepherd, told Amandala that they have not gotten any indication from the Council as to when the formal arrangements will be finalized by their new employer, and to add to that, they are still not sure when they will be paid the rest of their severance and compassionate packages from their former employer.

According to Matura-Shepherd, the workers are at a loss as to when they will be able to get the appropriate monies that they rightly toiled for. She said, “I wish I could have reported that everything has gone smoothly, but it hasn’t. We [CWU and CitCo] agreed to several points, and some of them are being implemented, but the biggest concern at this time is that the workers still have not gotten all their money. Maybe it has not been calculated as yet, but we should have gotten some correspondence to that effect. At the end of the day, these people want their money and we as the union need to provide them with a reasonable explanation as to why this thing has not been settled. [So], we’re going back to the Labour Department because by law, the Labour Department also needs to get the list of all the persons being terminated and the benefits calculated, and there are discrepancies right now in that calculation which I’m sure we can resolve, but how soon would be the issue for the worker.”

Due to socioeconomic woes, most of the workers have opted to sign over to the new company, but with no letters stating their terms of employment. “The other thing that hasn’t come through which is very important is that the workers have not received their offer letters. Nobody goes to work someplace and don’t know what are the terms and conditions in writing. The Council could have only given us certain assurances in regards to offering the workers $4.48 per hour as opposed to the $3.50 an hour originally offered to them. So, we need to see those letters”, Matura-Shepherd asserted.

The meeting that was scheduled to take place between the Mayor, the CWU and the head of the new security firm, Hiram Longsworth, last Friday so that the CWU could regulate the transition of those workers making the move has still not happened as yet, and the union has no idea when that meeting will be arranged. Matura-Shepherd stated, “We were supposed to have a meeting brokered by the Mayor with the new owner on Friday at 11:00 a.m., but it never happened. They changed it to 3:00 p.m., then to Monday but it still did not happen. We’re at Wednesday, so I’m hoping that before the week is out we have good news that we finally had the meeting. It’s important because we are concerned that if we don’t meet with the employer, the workers might start having problems over there and we would have wanted to at least introduce ourselves as the bargaining unit for the workers over there.”

The CWU president told us that she is concerned that attempts are being made at union busting with the affected workers, and fears that the workers might be hired to work for a few months before being fired again to allow for employees who will be paid at a lesser rate.

When we contacted City Hall for comment, the Mayor was not in office at the time.

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