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SSB workers stage union protest

BELMOPAN, Mon. Mar. 4, 2019– This morning, a video of an organized union protest at the Social Security Board (SSB) was circulating on social media. It showed many of the staff members standing and banging on the desks and counters in the SSB’s offices  with their hands.

Shortly after the video surfaced, the Christian Workers Union (CWU) issued a press release to discuss “the state of unease and uncertainty that now permeates the Staff of the Belize’s Social Security Board.”

On behalf of the SSB workers, the CWU began its release by “expressing dissatisfaction” concerning the way SSB approached the proposed  conversion of the staff’s pension scheme to a private company. The union says they are concerned about the quality of the consultation which should have preceded the initiative.

Additionally, they believe that there was insufficient time given to the CWU members to “adequately perform a complete assessment with due diligence, with an accompanying legal opinion as to the safest and most prudent path to proceed.”

The CWU also makes mention of  a letter sent to the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) by the CEO of SSB, Colin Young, on January 29 of this year. According to the release, the letter contains a table which is described to be a “summary of SSB’s efficiency measure for the time period of 2019-2025.”

On this table, there is reportedly an item which is labeled as “Peransa savings: staff reductions.” This item was linked with savings to the institution of $1,080,657, which has led some of the staff to interpret this as a commitment to reduce the staff over the next five years.

In answer to this, the CEO responded that that item does not indicate a planned reduction of the staff but rather it represents “savings that are the result of the present Collective Agreement which ends December of this year.”

Still, the CWU members on the SSB’s staff cannot be certain that is how BCCI interpreted the letter. Thus, CWU is saying that their members “demand a halt to the conversion of the Pension Scheme after the Deed has been registered, as the present pace and proposal is a disservice to them the beneficiaries.”

The release adds that the CWU hopes that by issuing the release, “ all doubts and/or misinterpretations of the letter written to the BCCI will be made by way of clarifications that are not only internal but made to the Chamber and the general public.”

Evan “Mose” Hyde, president of the union, says that the action of the SSB workers and their union was not a declaration of war, but an expression of seriousness, responsibility and the need for respectful communication.

According to the release, the CWU felt it necessary to go to the public on behalf of its members so that the citizens of Belize, who are the largest stakeholder group in the SSB, are aware of the “contentious internal issues that are contributing to a less than ideal working atmosphere” as well as to prompt the management of SSB to respond to the issues in order for the CWU members to “remove their trepidation and return to serving their workplace in an atmosphere of confidence and content.”

The release ends by saying that the CWU members understand that stabilizing the Social Security Fund is the highest priority and, along with the union, they remain “engaged and committed” to being one of the primary stakeholders. Despite this, they refuse to become “the convenient victims in the name of efficiency and sustainability…”

“Our members will not be made scapegoats,”  the release said.

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