BELIZE CITY, Mon. May 15, 2017–Amandala is reliably informed that two disputing parties—the management of the Belize Social Security Board (SSB), on the one hand, and the unionized workers represented by the Christian Workers Union (CWU), on the other—are meeting at the Labour Department in Belmopan today, as they continue to be divided on proposed changes to vacation leave entitlements and vacation grants which would be applied to new workers.
The union claims that the move is a form of union-busting which would create a disincentive for new workers to join the union if it compromises on the vacation issue now, and they also claim that the measure is a violation of the principle of equal pay for equal work—assertions which SSB’s management denies.
Three Fridays ago, workers staged a sickout in protest against the proposed changes, and at 3:00 p.m. this past Friday, several SSB workers staged a walkout because of the unresolved issues.
The parties had met last Tuesday but could not make progress, and so the two subsequent meetings scheduled to finalize the collective bargaining agreement were put off, pending requests for intervention by the Labour Department.
The Belize Social Security Board as well as the CWU had signaled the need for mediation. CWU general secretary Floyd Neal had advised our newspaper last week that the CWU would send off a letter calling on Labour Commissioner Ivan Williams to aid in resolving the dispute.
On Friday, the SSB issued a press release saying that it had reported the existence of a trade dispute with the CWU to Labour Minister Hugo Patt.
“The dispute arises out of the fact that SSB and CWU have been unable to reach agreement on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. SSB is hopeful that the pending mediation process will commence without delay in an effort to reach a mutually beneficial outcome,” the release added.
It went on to advise the public that “…some services at the SSB’s offices countrywide may be impacted in the event the CWU proceeds with any type of industrial action.”
The parties declined comment to our newspaper today, because of the ongoing mediation.