By Aaron Humes
Free Lance Reporter
Supreme Court Justice Michelle Arana has ruled that six former employees of Belize Water Services Limited (BWS) were wrongfully dismissed on February of 2013 by BWS management, and treated as scapegoats for a reported chain of sex scandals and internal intrigue.
Senior Counsel Said Musa, who represented Mark Menzies, told reporters that all claimants testified in court. They have been very patient as their case wound through the court system, and he is happy with the decision because the men were poorly treated by their management, including CEO Alvan Haynes.
Musa explained that Haynes went on to threaten action against those involved with the scandalous letters circulated among employees, even though there was no proof of their involvement.
BWS, through its attorney Rodwell Williams, has maintained that the firings were a cost-cutting exercise, the result of not receiving its desired rate from the Public Utilities Commission.
Monetary damages are expected for lost benefits and salaries, but the workers neither need nor want to return to their jobs.
The scandal ripped the Belize Water Services’ Workers’ Union (BWSWU) apart, as several of the fired workers were union executives and felt betrayed by their union’s lack of support.
For the employees themselves, vindication has come not a moment too soon. Their dispute with BWS led to “hard times” – as they could not keep, or in some cases secure a job.
Michael Novelo, an unsuccessful People’s United Party candidate in the March 2015 municipal election, spoke of “a sigh of relief – knowing that we have sent a message to the company that we are not here just for you to “push” around.”
Referring to the Union, Don Gillett, another fired employee, believes there are alternative routes to clearing one’s name. If the Union cannot help you then one has recourse to the court.
The toll was also personal for two employees: Colin Morrison, who lost his wife to sickle cell anemia this year after BWS dropped his insurance in 2013 and he could no longer afford her medical treatment; and Journett McKoy, who lost his job despite being an exemplary employee during his tenure at BWS.
Damages, though not yet calculated, have been awarded to the employees along with court costs.