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#436630 - 04/27/12 08:29 AM B.E.L. Union Protest firing of workers
Marty Offline

B.E.L. Union Protest firing of workers; C.E.O. must go

Signs that there is trouble between management and union members of the state owned Belize Electricity Limited, surfaced today. A representative number of members of the Belize Electricity Workers Union staged a protest at mid-day in front of the corporate offices of the utility company on the Northern Highway. The BEWU president read a list of grievances including the delay in bonus payments and called for a change at the very top. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

About three dozen Belize Energy Workers Union members demonstrated at the Belize Electricity Limited headquarters during their lunch hour. It was a small showing of problems that have sparked a short between employees and management. The BEWU president read a list of demands.

Marvin Mora

Marvin Mora, President, Belize Energy Workers Union

“The three employees who were terminated and dismissed without following due process be reinstated immediately to their original post. The second one; that all apprentice linesmen who have completed their four years with the company—at which time their initial four years contract expired—be made permanent immediately regardless of whether or not they have completed the entire linemen training since the workers have already complied with their obligations as stipulated within said contract. Third one; that the Union decision to change its representative within the pension committee be made effective immediately. Fourth one; that the position of plant operator two—assigned to B.E.L.’s gas turbine generating unit—remain and not be made redundant as expressed on a letter from management to the Union dated twentieth April 2012 in the best interest of the customers, the company and the employees. Fifth; that the pending bonus for 2008, 2009, 2010—twenty-five percent each respectively—be paid forthwith to the employees of B.E.L.”

Jeffery Locke

One demand includes the dismissal of the government appointed CEO Jeffery Locke.

Marvin Mora

“The C.E.O. stops working at B.E.L. in the best interest of the company, the employees and its customers as well.”

Jose Sanchez

“Would you be willing to compromise to some of those demands if some are met? Is the removal of Jeffery Locke a mandatory part of this demand?”

Marvin Mora

“Brother man, our people are already being sent home. What we’re saying is, reinstate our workers. Let us talk; let us talk on the other issues—the bonus and the other issues that are pending—let us talk on those, but send our people back to their original post. That’s all we are saying and then we can talk. And then if the Union sees it not necessary to continue to ask that the C.E.O. stops working at B.E.L. then we back off. But at the end of the day; that is the position of the union right now.”

These workers are only the frontline of support that branches across the country.

Marvin Mora

“In terms of current presence here at this picketing, it is obvious that we only have a small minority of the entire group. However, there are several things: one is geographic placement where the whole employment of B.E.L. is spread across the entire nation of Belize. So we have workers in Corozal, Orange Walk who are all in full support of the Union. Everybody that you see here are people that can take their lunch break. We have people who are working up there in dispatch who are also in support with the Union; we have people elsewhere that are in very key essential post that they can’t leave.”

Jules Vasquez, 7 News

“The three employees; what is the circumstance of their terminations?”

Marvin Mora

“Well they vary. As a matter of fact, pointing to the key issues within those terminations is the fact that we have not received any single detail of what the specific accusation against these brothers and we have not received any single shred of evidence or the documentation that led to those terminations—none at all.”

Jules Vasquez

“Is there any chance that these workers were terminated because they had been under influence?”

Marvin Mora

“Well if there is that chance, the Union does not know anything about it because we were not served any documentation or proof of that. The company has invested four years—in the case of the linesmen–.four years of very expensive training for these guys and then to all turn around for one simple mistake send then out home. To us that makes no sense.”

Dorla Staine

Dorla Staine, General Secretary, BEWU

“One of the key points for us being here also is for our four brothers at the gas turbine plant, who the management has decided that within one year, their post would be redundant. For the union that is a major concern not only for them as employees, but for the general public as well. The gas turbine is the black start engine. In case of emergency that is the engine they look to; to go and get up the system quickly. How could management even think of a decision like that? Which management with responsibility will do that? We asked them—we were in a meeting Friday gone—are you shutting down the gas turbine? They said no, we are not. Then how could you ask about terminating the guys? Who will run the machine when they go? They say the machine will be manned from the center here. We have about two of the operators here. They can tell you that is not happening up to this point. From in the 1990s that plant was supposed to run remotely; it is not happening. So I don’t know if people are taking the operations of this company seriously.”

The General Secretary of the Union says that relations never got this bad under Lynn Young’s administration.

Dorla Staine

“The management under the previous administration have never said that they would send those people home. They were looking at other things maybe to say if in idle time maybe they could do a little something else. It has never said to the Union that the gas turbine will be closed down and these operators will go home. This is the first we hear of it and last week they said one year from now. And so the question to ask this company is: what will you do when you send the operators home? And I want to add that the gas turbine cannot carry this nation but it is an important aspect of the whole machinery; it makes everything else come back.”

Marvin Mora

“When the government took over, the employees and the Union was under the impression that we would have a better industrial relations with the new management or the new directive. But that was not the case. As a matter of fact, they just came and fit in. And the Union has many issues that could easily solve were the management to be flexible. But the management of the company has sought not to be flexible. And that has put us in that position today. It’s not that we are being insensitive. We have been as sensitive as possible to the customers’ needs. We understand one hundred and fifty of the workers are the most essential workers in this country because they deal with the most essential utility.”

Sean Nicholas

How seriously does the union take their list of demands? The union’s vice president says that industrial action in the form of brown outs, is a strong possibility.

Sean Nicholas, Vice President, Belize Energy Workers Union

“The union could have planned something drastic for today. However, we unlike management have consumers at heart. We have a track record. We are the first union in Belize who opposed the company they work for, for an increase. Good faith; these people don’t know the meaning of good faith. We are a responsible union who will not put the country at risk without due process. Today is just the start. We are not ruling out if we have to take the power out; we are not ruling that out. However we know the situation with the crime present in the city. We could have went in a different direction today, however, the consumers we have at heart, at all times.”

Jose Sanchez

“Even though your numbers are low out here today, is there a follow up? What is the next step because the government is saying listen this is only a few dozen people that they can see?”

Marvin Mora

“Trust me, these few dozen people are a few dozen of the most essential workers. We intend to take this all the way through and we know that our people behind us. We don’t want to go down that road, but the company does not leave us any other way out. So if it does happen, the union has already a plan and we have established a way forward. This is not finished until our plans are met.”

And though they have the consumer at heart at all times, does the B.E.L. board hold their demands with the same regard? Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

This evening, the company sent out a release saying that the union did not request a meeting with management prior to the demonstration so it is unaware what triggered the protest. According to B.E.L., the union president did not accept an invitation to a meeting and that since 2011 the BEWU has chosen not to sit at the negotiating table. The release ends by saying that the company is committed to open dialogue to resolve concerns.

Channel 5

BEL Statement Regarding BEWU Demonstration

Earlier today, approximately 30 employees of the Belize Energy Workers Union (BEWU) staged a public demonstration in front of the headquarters of Belize Electricity Limited (BEL).

BEL advises that prior to this course of action, the BEWU Executive did not provide Management with any communication requesting a meeting aimed at discussing any concerns of the Union. Management was therefore unaware of what triggered the public demonstration.

In a letter this morning, Management invited the Union Executives to a meeting to discuss their concerns instead of their planned course of action. Unfortunately, the President of the Union refused to accept the letter citing that he would do so after the demonstration.

Since 2011, Management has also been inviting the BEWU Executive to commence long overdue union negotiations. The Union has chosen not to come to the table.

BEL’s Management is disappointed in the course of action chosen by the BEWU today. Management assures employees and the public that it remains committed to sharing its plans with staff, engaging in open dialogue and operating in an environment of trust and transparency. Management is ready and willing to dialogue with the Union in order to resolve concerns in the interest of all stakeholders as the Company works to keep the lights on, meet its financial obligations and take care of its people.

#436650 - 04/27/12 09:14 AM Re: B.E.L. Union Protest firing of workers [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

BEL Says Workers Aren't Living Up to Their Commitments

This afternoon - BEL's Corporate Secretary Dawn Sampson Nunez agreed to discuss the issues raised by the union. She says they have tried to enter into talks but they were rebuffed.

Here's why she says BEL is not to blame:..

Dawn Sampson Nunez, BEL's Corporate Secretary
"The employees that you saw out there today, I think there were approximately 30 or so members of the Belize Energy Workers Union - we do not discard any concerns that they have. At the end of the day it's a large company, we have approximately 270 or so employees. In a large organization like this, you are going to make decisions that some people are happy with and other employees are not happy with. That is expected."

"What we expect though is that when we have differences - when we do not agree in relation to the operations we expect that proper procedures will be followed. We expect that we would be given an opportunity to properly address any concerns and I can tell you in this case that the union prior to the demonstration today and even now up to the time of this interview has not approach BEL; has not approach the management of this company to say can we sit and wait and address our concerns, these are our concerns, these are our issues, can we sit and meet with you to resolved the matters. We are very disappointed from our perspective."

"Up to this morning we extended an invitation to the president of the union. We attempted to deliver a letter of invitation to the president of the e union to sit in a meeting with us and he advised us that he would not accept any communication, any letter from BEL until after the demonstration. So, that's a bit disappointing."

"With respect to the issue of the dismissal/termination of the employees I can tell you that I've reviewed the situation with our HR department and clearly the company did follow the procedures outlined in the partnership collective agreement."

Jules Vasquez
"You are satisfied that you all have lived up to all those obligations because the union is saying that the union has not been informed that these union members were dismiss."

Dawn Sampson Nunez, BEL's Corporate Secretary
"I am very confident that the company has lived up to the obligations outlined in the partnership collective agreement."

Jules Vasquez
"Will these workers be re-instated?"

Dawn Sampson Nunez, BEL's Corporate Secretary
"Jules, we followed the proper procedure outlined in the partnership collective agreement. Like I said we are very confident of that. The agreement was signed back in July 2008. We reminded the union in relation to these cases of what the procedures were. We have followed those procedures."

Jules Vasquez
"How will these multiple issues be resolved? The union has issued a threat that it can escalate, that it has broad base support; even the word "outages" were mentioned."

Dawn Sampson Nunez, BEL's Corporate Secretary
"We are still waiting for the union to come to the management of the company to ask for a meeting for us to resolve the issues. Like I said we made an attempt this morning, it was rejected. The letter was not accepted. Going forward, our position remains that we are open to dialogue. "

The union circulated a list of six demands - we could not deal with all of them tonight, but will have both sides of those demands in tomorrow's newscast.

Channel 7

#437154 - 05/05/12 07:41 AM Re: B.E.L. Union Protest firing of workers [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

BEL Requests Intervention by Labor Commissioner to Bring BEWU Executives to the Discussion Table

Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) has submitted a request for intervention by the Labor Commissioner in an effort to bring Executives of the Belize Energy Workers' Union (BEWU) to the discussion table.

This request follows a public communication by the BEWU to the media on April 26, 2012, listing six points of action they are demanding from BEL's Management. To date the BEWU has still not presented their concerns directly to the Company.

Since April 26, 2012, BEL's Management has extended two invitations to the Executives of the BEWU to meet and discuss any concerns of the Union in an effort to find a resolution. Following the most recent invitation, issued on Monday, April, 30, 2012, the BEWU Executives informed that they are willing to meet with BEL's Management at a location away from the Company's premises; a "neutral" location. The Company continues to await confirmation from the BEWU Executives on the venue, date and time for the meeting.

With considerable time passing and public statements by Executives of the BEWU on power outages (which are of serious concern to BEL), the Company decided to ask the Labor Commissioner to intervene in order to make progress in getting the meeting underway and settling the current issue.

The Company desires to settle this situation as soon as possible, as it is keen on resolving related matters as soon as possible in the best interest of our customers, employees and all other stakeholders.

#437163 - 05/05/12 08:16 AM Re: B.E.L. Union Protest firing of workers [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

BEL Linesmen Standing Down From Call This Weekend

For the past week, the Belize Energy Workers Union has been agitating against management.

And tonight, the news is that the temperature of the dispute has increased - on both sides. First, four workers assigned to the Gas Turbine unit at Mile 8 on the Western Highway have been declared redundant. And second, BEL's management has asked the Labour Commissioner to intervene in the dispute.

It has all the ingredients of an ugly, increasingly bitter standoff and the Belize Energy Workers Union held a press conference today to discuss the new developments. Here's what they said:..

Sean Nicholas, Vice President, BEWU
"The company has invited the union to a meeting. After the union accepted the invitation to the meeting they went ahead and sent the employees letters of redundancy."

Marvin Mora, President BEWU
"The update was that BEL has already acted against the demands. That is the update. BEL has already made well the position of the four guys at the GT. That has got us to this table."

Dale Trujueque, Advisor, "Warlock for workers"
"Just a few minutes before this meeting we have gotten a letter from BEL informing us that they have requested the intervention of the labour commissioner. What that tells me confirms our view that BEL realizes that the time to talk is over."

Marvin Mora, President BEWU
"These are unreasonable people acting unreasonably. I can't say anything more about that."

Dorla Staine - General Secretary - BEWU
"We see where the tempo is building. Today it is 4 workers and on the horizon there may be more because they are doing it in phases. You may be surprise to know that the union going down the road we may hear about other people coming forward."

Marvin Mora, President BEWU
"We realize that all the things we are fighting for the management absolutely have no way that they are going to budge. If they are not going to budge, we as a union cannot continue to deal with a management that has already made up their minds. Unless the company starts to treat the employees as equal partners in this venture and as part of the entire stakeholders, then the union will have no other recourse but to come to the public."

"Ultimately the public is our boss. It's the ultimate boss, the waiting will stop when the workers get enough and the workers are almost there."

"I know that the public may be alarmed when we say industrial action, but it is well within our rights and we have certain processes that we have to go through and exhaust this process to reach to that end."

BEL issued a press release this evening saying that, it "has submitted a request for intervention by the Labor Commissioner in an effort to bring the Union to the table."

The release says that since last week Management has extended two invitations to the union to meet. According to the release, the union has told them it is willing to meet at a neutral location away from the corporate headquarters - but no time, date or venue has been set.

And so, that is where it is tonight: the two sides not talking and the Labour Commissioner being asked to intercede. But, beyond that there is the matter of the Gas Turbine at mile 8. The Union says the workers are needed because that;s the generator that brings back the power in the event of a blackout. BEL's management says it can control it remotely.

The union says it can't - and not having full time staff to operate it - according to the union - puts consumers in a bad position:

Marvin Mora, President BEWU
"The work that these guys did there is very elemental in bringing back the service to the country after a total shutdown. So, they have already proceeded to make redundant these guys even though this is part of our demands. These people (management) are not here to listen to us, they just want to do what they want and the union has to take a stance."

"The GT is one of the most important things in bringing back the power to Belize City and the rest of the country. If the GT cannot function then obviously you guys will be without power for a much longer period of time."

Sean Nicholas, Vice President, BEWU
"The union cannot allow that to consumers. We are a responsible union and we will not act in that fate to the consumer. It's important to have these guys at that spot."

"This is one of the main reasons why the union takes to come to you guys. Until the company could show that they have, and the union had ask the company for that, show their due diligence what you did to the union and the union may agree with you. However the company chooses not to and we feel that consumers, employees and shareholders will be at risk."

And that risk will be elevated this weekend. According to late reports to our newsroom from Union sympathizers, linesmen countrywide who are on call for weekend emergencies will hold back their labour. As we understand it, they have put down their radios and will not be available for work. So in the case of a blackout - BEL would have no one to call to bring the power back up.

That is a very big deal - and while we cannot say that it came officially from the union - we have gotten it from a very reliable source.

The test now will be to see how strong the union's hold on its linesmen is and how many linesmen will actually hold back their labour. Late this evening, a BEL representative told us that regardless of the rumour BEL is prepared to provide the normal level of service to customers.

Channel 7


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