BELIZE CITY, Wed. Jan. 20, 2021– Almost 85 open-vote workers from bus terminals across the country have been terminated. Reports of the terminations first surfaced on social media on January 15, when 24 open-vote workers from the Novelos Bus Terminal in Belize City were given their termination letters and staged a mini protest in front of the bus station, which was captured on camera.
A letter signed by the Ministry of Transport’s CEO, Marconi Leal, Jr., thanked the workers for their service and informed them that they would be given their severance pay for their years of employment within the Ministry of Transport.
Reports are that other open-vote workers from bus terminals across the country have also been let go. When interviewed by the media, the Minister responsible for Transport, Hon. Rodwell Ferguson, said that the decision was a hard one to make, but he had no choice.
“I, who is a human being, I have a soft heart. It was not my intention, but if I did, I damned, if I don’t, I damned, because my people are expecting me to provide for them.” This was Minister Ferguson’s preface to his response to questions surrounding the termination of the workers at the height of the “maaga season.”
In the November 2020 general election, Ferguson garnered almost 5,000 votes in his constituency of Stann Creek West, the largest division in the country. This number of votes, according to Minister Ferguson, about 4900 to be exact, is the most that any elected official has ever amassed in Belizean political history. And one-third of these people, his supporters, are looking for employment, like thousands of other Belizean citizens.
“I did what I did, with a lot of remorse, but I will be the first that if any job becomes available, those people would be the first to get a job,” Minister Ferguson said, in reference to the persons who were recently fired. He added that the employment of open-vote workers is not protected by any regulations. This makes them the most likely government workers to lose their jobs in this time of austerity for the Government. Minister Ferguson said that this cycle of hiring and terminating open-vote workers after every change of administration needs to end, and that a standard needs to be set.
Minister Ferguson, in his interview, pointed out that since the Government is strapped for cash, the persons who are hired to fill the void left at the bus terminals would not be considered new entrants, but replacements. “That’s why I feel how I feel, but as I said, if I do, I’m damned; if I don’t, I’m damned,” Minister Ferguson said.