“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” — MLK, Jr.
Last week, at the sitting of the House of Representatives, a Bill was introduced entitled the “Labour (Amendment) Bill 2020”. This (Amendment) Bill in essence seeks “to amend the Labour Act, Chapter 297 of the Substantive Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2011; to provide for employers to reduce wages where the working hours of an employee have been reduced in special circumstances, to provide for leave of absence without pay in special circumstances; to provide for exemptions from the period of night rest” and for other matters connected to or associated therewith.
Now, if you are confused and find yourself stuck between the hifalutin terms and convoluted jargons, this is a very serious (Amendment) Bill, Belize. In essence, it is a proposal to grant employers the power to reduce the wages of employees in times of public emergency or in the event of a threat to public health. Furthermore, it grants the employer the power to place employees on leave without pay if the employer has been adversely affected by the economic impact of a state of public emergency or as a result of a threat to public health.
Now, this is a very serious (Amendment) Bill that cannot and must not be taken lightly. We are talking about granting employers the unreserved power and right to reduce employees’ salaries and place them on leave without pay on the backing of (this) pandemic. That is absolutely ludicrous and egregious at a time when members of the working class are fighting and struggling just to survive, let alone meet their most basic and rudimentary needs. To put it mildly, this (Amendment) Bill puts the working class population in a very vulnerable position— awaiting their fates like sitting ducks. This (Amendment) Bill is a low blow to the esteemed workers who carry this country on their backs!
We, as a society which has been founded on the basis of a constructive revolution, cannot be complacent and complicit in actions that threaten our security and erode the very tenets and rudimentary principles on which our democracy was founded. See, when we remain silent about the very things that matter, we become complicit in the very actions that threaten us. And when this silence becomes sustained in the face of inherent and calculated injustices, it is just then that our existence, our very lives, begin to end.
I reckon, Belize, that it is half past time that we WAKE UP! It is time that we become more active participants in the things that affect us; when our lives and livelihoods are at stake! I reckon that it’s time that we put our leaders on notice. The time has come for us to let Belmopan know that we are tuned in, we are paying attention, that we won’t take (that) lightly and that we are willing to denounce it because we are paying attention and we understand the hidden threat to our livelihood between the lines of those beautiful words.
I say, we are not herds of cattle that merely graze and follow. We are not flocks of chicken that indolently pick the ground for whatever is thrown at us and follow the line where the feed is scattered. We are a society of thinkers, creators, esteemed and noble professionals, and it’s time we take note and stock of what is going on. It is time we cash that cheque that has been issued to us and that has returned void on every count. It is time that we say, oh no, we won’t have it and we won’t stand for that. It’s time we say: “wheel and come again, Sah, because you’re trampling on our bread ahn buttah!” Focus, Belize! Open your eyes, my lovely people! Stay woke!
We are all in this together!
God Bless Belize!