36 fired – CWU to the rescue!

The Christian Workers Union (CWU) held a press conference on Thursday morning to publicly raise the issue of 36 security officers whose jobs have been terminated by the City Council and whose futures remain uncertain.
According to CWU President, Audrey Matura Shepherd and six of the terminated security officers, the workers attended a meeting last Tuesday in which they were told that the Security Department of the Belize City Council would be privatized.
According to the security officers who spoke, they were never told that they would remain employed under the new privatized company, which they claim will be contracted to former Security Department manager Hiram Longsworth. Even though they were told that some people would remain employed with Longsworth they were not told if their salary would remain the same.
Under the labor laws, the City Council should have informed the security officers about the redundancy process as soon as possible but not later than one month from the date of the intended dismissal, explained Matura-Shepherd.
The bargaining unit, which in this case is the CWU, should have also been involved in the discussions. Therefore, the City Council did not fulfil its legal obligations to the workers and to the union, Matura-Shepherd declared. She added that the Council acted in bad faith because the law is clear on how the process is to be carried out.
Matura-Shepherd then stated that in a letter from the Mayor, he confirmed that the decision to privatize the Security Department had been made in December but he did not provide the date on which that decision was made. The officers claim that they had heard rumors about the privatization, but whenever they inquired many of them were told that it was false. The CWU claimed that the first time the officers were officially made aware of the privatization was at a short meeting held at the Commercial Center on January 22.
The employees were given their termination letters the following day, January 23.
The letters, surprisingly, were dated for January 16, giving the impression that the officers had been given a two-week notification.
Matura-Shepherd claimed that the CWU has since sent two letters to the Mayor and has not received a response from him on either letter. She also claimed that they requested information from the Labor Commissioner’s office to see if they were informed about the terminations, since it is required by the Labor Laws. The CWU was told that the Labor Commissioner wasn’t informed either, she explained.
The CWU is requesting that the terminations be put on hold until proper consultations between the union and the Labor Commission have been held.
They also requested that as many as possible of the security officers be taken back into the employment of the new privatized security firm. For those that cannot be retained, the union asks that they be given a transition package to cushion the effects of the layoff as well as a recommendation.
Matura-Shepherd also said that while the security officers are being made redundant, the City Council hired 10 new employees this week with the title of Park Rangers, who carry out the same job as the terminated security officers. She explained that, according to the law, once that is done, the employer cannot claim redundancy and must find employment for the workers elsewhere.
Matura-Shepherd added that while the CWU hopes to resolve the issue through reasonable discussions, the union is prepared to take the matter up in court.
Some speculation has arisen among the terminated officers that Longsworth, who has no prior experience in security work, may be “fronting” for someone else. But those allegations remain unconfirmed.

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