By Alexis R. Milan
The Belize Energy Workers Union (BEWU), after staging a three-day protest to a breakdown in negotiations with Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) management, has met with Minister of Labor Godwin Hulse and now awaits a subsequent meeting between Hulse and management to resume negotiations.
According to BEWU Vice President Marvin Mora, the union is cautiously optimistic following its meeting with Hulse. Mora said the BEWU presented its concerns to Hulse, who expressed management’s positions on the issues after meeting with management on Thursday morning.
Mora said Hulse is of the opinion that there is room for both parties to bridge the gap between them and come to an amicable solution. Mora said if Hulse is able to bring both parties to the negotiating table to make compromises, then an agreement can indeed be reached.
The union is requesting an eight percent salary increase, among other things, over the next four years, which would mean a two percent increase every year.
Mora said there are other points of contention which also need to be resolved, involving sick days and the vesting period for retention of employees.
BEL sent out a release earlier this week saying that the BEWU’s proposal was for an increase in salaries and benefits amounting to 90 percent of salary, which the company rejected. According to BEL, in April the BEWU again presented a new proposal for a 62 percent increase in salaries and benefits and the company presented a counter proposal for 24 percent.
But the BEWU walked away from the negotiating table and led a sickout. The Company increased its offer from 24 percent to 29 percent, but the BEWU again rejected the offer, BEL said.
BEL also claimed that employees have received a 20 percent salary increase over the past four years, a claim that the BEWU firmly denies.