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#507902 - 09/30/15 11:02 AM PM Intervenes To Avert BEL Strike
Marty Offline
At noon today, The Belize Energy Workers union declared that it will go on strike tomorrow - that's after talks with BEL Management broke down last night. But the breaking news tonight is that the strike may be averted. That's after the Prime Minister met with the union this afternoon at his Coney Drive office. That's the very latest, and we'll tell you all about it shortly - but we begin with last night's meeting. It was held at the Ministry of Labour in Belmopan - and at around 10:00 pm, talks broke down, when, the union claims, Management refused to give anymore and held to its position. With that the Union consulted its membership this morning and agreed to go on strike. General Secretary Marvin Mora appeared at noon in front of BEL's Corporate Headquarters backed up by his executive:...

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU
"Our membership suggested a strike tomorrow and it is over 50% of the union countrywide who have accepted that preposition. So, unless we don't get any resolution to our situation then the union will have to effectuate that strike tomorrow."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"Give us an idea in numbers?"

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU
"In terms of our numbers, we are about 147-148 employees."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"This is a strike by 50% of those employees in the union. Give us an idea of the impact to BEL services?"

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU
"We are not expecting half. Actually right now we have received confirmation from over 80% of the union and that means that because of how the union operate, we are also expecting everybody else to comply. It's either they stand with the union or they stand against the union, with management."

Reporter
"BEL is consider an essential service. Now how will that square away with the legalities of an industrial action?"

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU
"As you all know Chapter 297 of the laws of Belize puts the entire responsibility on the shoulders of the minister once he has intervene. He has already intervene and we are almost at the end of the process and we have not seen any movement on behalf of BEL. So obviously the union now is well within its rights to effectuate that strike."

Reporter
"How the strike will impact services you imagine or you expect?"

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU
"Honestly we are talking about the two major services that BEL provide; one, is the transmission and distribution and the other one is the customer service and so far we have received very much support from both of those areas which means that those two areas will see little or no service."

Jules Vasquez
"Should be expect blackouts tomorrow?"

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU
"I wouldn't believe so. But it is something that may eventually happen because it is the very same people that will go on strike if it does happen - that the people who will put back the light if the lights goes. That's basically what we are making reference to."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you all intent to forcing a crisis or pushing this to a head, because you know that we are only 36 days away from election and in an election time all squeaky wheels have to be oiled immediately?"

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU
"To be honest to you Jules, the union has worked the system. We have been more than patience. Our people have been asking for a strike from before September, at the beginning of September and it has been the executive who have always hold on to the hope that the diplomatic process would work. But apparently, that is yielding no results. So, the membership now are taking the charge and they are the ones that are requesting that strike. It's either BEL move off their position or we will have to do what we have to do."

The union sent the press a text after that fiery interview - calling on the Prime Minister to intercede - and by 4:00 pm - they were called up to his Coney Drive office faster than you can say, "election di cohn." They left shortly after in this pickup truck and when we inquired about the outcome of the meeting, Mora told us via text, quote, "It's looking good, but our union wants it in black and white so we are heading to Belmopan to the labour minister's office. He concludes, and this is the important part: "once we sign our members will call off the strike." That was at 5:30 pm, so we're waiting on word from Belmopan. Right now, it's wait and see - but there might not be much to see in terms of a strike because BEL sent out a release half an hour ago. It says, quote, "BEL and the Belize Energy Workers Union have reached points of agreement on negotiations of salaries and benefits, subject to ratification by both parties later this evening."

It continues, quote, "The Prime Minister of Belize this afternoon intervened to mediate the process and held discussions with BEL and the B-E-W-U...

The Company is hopeful that a Memorandum of Understanding will be signed this evening by both parties at a meeting scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the Ministry of Labour in Belmopan. This should pave the way for completion of negotiations for a revised Partnership Collective Agreement in the coming weeks."

Big development late in the evening, and it should put to rest any possibility of a strike tomorrow.

Channel 7



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#507942 - 10/01/15 11:08 AM Re: PM Intervenes To Avert BEL Strike [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

One Day After Strike Threat, BEL Union and Management Sign New Deal

The BEL union won’t strike. A deal was reached this afternoon – after a tough night of negotiation at the ministry of labour in Belmopan. It got so tough that one side walked out – and the other ended up staying until three in the morning. And even after all of that – they still didn’t sign the agreement! The General Secretary of the union told us about it today:…

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU

"Eventually I think management walked out; or the person that they had there representing walked out, we're not sure what happened. But the agreement was in essence between the government of Belize and the trade union; the government of Belize being the owner in a sense of the company. That’s where we stand. We thought that at that point in time that it would be better to have that than to have nothing at all and come back empty handed and start at square one. This morning we believe that we should have some sort of compromise coming from the government as well in regards to what the board intends to do with it. It is there, we will know for sure that what we pen down last night will be accepted because it has to go to the board. Once it is agreed by the board then we have an agreement in essence. Everything after that will just be formalities."

Jules Vasquez

"So you all have signed to it?"

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU

"Yes we did."

Jules Vasquez

"Management has not?"

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU

"Not really, management has not; as far as we are concerned."

Mike Rudon - Channel 5 News

"What is different at this point if management still has not agreed to anything that is on the table?"

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU

"The difference is huge because as far as we are concerned back when we were at mediation the chairman of the board was not in agreement. But with the prime minister's intervention, some flexibility from the union, he was able to agree with everything that we had on the document."

Mike Rudon - Channel 5 News

"Has your membership given you any kind of deadline as to when you expect something signed and returned?"

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU

"Well actually the information we received set the deadline for today. So obviously if today we don't see any movement coming from the board, that means that whatever happened last night was not serious and the union stands ready to continue with their plan. So far all indication are that indeed we might have an agreement coming from the board."

Jules Vasquez

"How did the meeting with the prime minster go yesterday? And first what was the importance of his input?"

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU

"Indeed the prime minister does have more leverage because like I said, he is the embodiment of the owner of BEL. He is the head of government."

Jules Vasquez

"So then if he spoke as the unofficial representative of the majority shareholder, then shouldn't it have just been a simple sign off thing? Shouldn't management of BEL simply said, well the owner has spoken and so it is what it is? Why then wasn't there this signing at 7 o'clock like what BEL had promised in a very free spoken press release?"

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU

"I'm glad that you asked that question but I think that question should be redirected to the management of BEL. I cannot comment as to what their reasoning was."

But that standoff didn’t last much longer – by 5:30 BEL sent out a press release saying that they had signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Belize Energy Workers Union. Included are the four basic amendments worked out by the Prime Minister – led off by an across the board salary increase which Mora outlined for us today.

Mike Rudon - Channel 5 News

"Tell us concretely exactly what there agreement is about in terms of figures for the union?"

Marvin Mora, General Secretary - BEWU

"Sure definitely; the first item we agreed upon was the across the board increase. We had requested at 2% but the minister even in mediation had suggested 1.75."

So, apart from that 1.75% yearly across the board salary increase,

the Company will match the contribution of all employees paying 10% of their salary into the BEL Pension Fund.

This is just an interim agreement which should – in the words of the release – “pave the way” for completion of negotiations for a revised Collective Agreement in the coming weeks.

Channel 7


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