Labour Commissioner Says No “Due Process and Fairness” in Kolbe Terminations Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 01 August 2013 00:00

Hon. Godwin HulseFormer employees at the Belize Central Prison are measuring the prospect of success in taking the Kolbe Foundation to arbitration tribunals for what they believe were wrongful terminations. The Labour Department recently concluded an investigation into complaints filed by Herman Blease, former Deputy Chief of Security; Abdul Nunez, former Director of the Wagner’s Rehabilitation Facility; Carla Elizabeth Budna, former Principal Officer; Julius Andrew Elijio, former Security Guard;  Michael Gutierrez, former Deputy Chief Training Officer and Yuri Sauren Castillo, former Records Clerk. In the report, Ivan Williams, Labour Commissioner of Belize, wrote, “With the exception of Mr. Elijio, they were terminated not only on hearsay but arbitrary, without due process and fairness on the instructions of Mrs. Taheera Ahmad, the Director of the Belize Central Prison.”

Commisioner Williams also investigated the terminations of Carla Casimiro, Richard Harris, Errol Brown, Ravion Card, Agnes Nunez and Ebiduna Evans. He said they all received a standard letter in which they were informed that their assignment to work with the Kolbe Foundation ended. Williams said, “I found this letter very vague to say the least, as it implies that the complainants were employed under a fixed term employment contract.” He said there was no evidence that non management employees operated under such arrangements; therefore, the use of such a letter “led to an abuse of the termination process in that the real reason was never told to them neither were they given an opportunity to respond”.  

There are many other employees who may have legitimate claims of improper termination against Kolbe Foundation. According to the Labour Department’s report, a total of 268 individuals were employed at the Belize Central Prison as of May 30, 2013 and a total of 33 were terminated and replaced by June 19, 2013. Williams noted that all required payments in the termination process were provided to complainants by Kolbe. However, he recommends that “a Human Resource Unit be employed as a part of the management structure of the Belize Central Prison and if one exists that it be adequately staffed and given the resources to ensure that a proper hiring and terminal process be strictly adhered to.”

The investigation into the terminations was ordered by Senator Godwin Hulse, Minister of Labour. He said the report has been forwarded to the unions and a meeting is scheduled with Prime Minister Barrow on August 9th at which the report will be on the table for discussion. Hulse said that individuals who wish to challenge the termination can apply for arbitration tribunals to be convened. He said it is a lenghty process but it is available for them to seek a resolution. Hulse also addressed the idea that prison officers are not allowed to unionize. He said, “The Constitution gives the right of association to everybody so we would have to stand by that.”