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Labour Day Gift for BTL Employees - 12% increase over 3 years Print E-mail
( 2 Votes )
Written by Shane D. Williams   
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 00:00

Belize will celebrate Labour Day on Thursday, March 1st, and workers in almost every sector have reason to celebrate. Due to Government’s infrastructure program, there are more men and women employed in the construction industry than ever before. This Labour Day will also meet teachers, public servants, police officers, fire fighters, soldiers and pensioners, among others, set for a significant salary increase. The employees of BTL can also be added to that list of thousands that will see their salaries increase because the Belize Communications Workers Union inked an agreement with the Executive Committee of the company on Monday, April 28th, three days before Labour Day 2014 for a three-year annual salary increase of four percent along with additional benefits.

For employees of the local communications giant, it has been 15 years since a collective bargaining agreement was signed with the company. Negotiations with this current executive commenced in June of 2013 and ended with a town hall type meeting earlier this year with members of the company’s executive, the union’s executive and their general membership. Anwar Barrow, Chairman of BTL Executive Committee, says an agreement was easily reachable because of the great relationship between the union and the executive. He says it is a “relationship that has been growing from strength to strength.” Barrow says, “The one key difference between this new era of GOB majority ownership and the past is the climate of mutual respect that exist between the union and the executive… The union operates in an environment where the door has been left opened and they have unfettered access to the Board of Directors if they so feel necessary.” Barrow says, “This access allows the rank and file to have their voices and concerns heard by the ultimate decision making body of the company.”

The employees did not need the open door to be heard when they knocked on their desks for a minute in April of this year. Both the union’s and company’s executives say this gesture was not in a spirit of protest but one to show solidarity among union members. Barrow says it was a gesture the executive supports. A proposal was agreed upon shortly after. Employees will receive an annual salary increase of four percent for the next three years, retroactive to October 1st, 2013. There will also be an increase in lodging, phone, burial and other allowances; as well as the introduction of a paternity grant. Apart from the salary increase, the most outstanding features of the new agreement are an increase in the company’s contribution to the employees’ pension scheme and the provision of 4G service to all staff members. Barrow says the company will increase the company’s contribution to the pension scheme from five to six 6 percent of their salary. He says, “In a world of uncertainty a pension program provides certainty.” He also says, “The provision of 4G service is a win-win for the company because it gives the employees a better window into the type of services the company is selling and allows them to become a better ambassador of BTL.“    

President of the Belize Communications Workers Union, Leann Bardalez, says the event could not have taken place at a better time. She says in signing the agreement, “We remember labour activists like Antonio Soberanis who paved the way for workers rights in Belize.” Bardalez says, “Without leaders like them we would not be signing an agreement like this today, three days before Labour Day.” The Labour Commissioner of Belize, Ivan Williams, was present to witness and put his stamp on the collective bargaining agreement.

Before signing the agreement, Anwar Barrow had a message for employees of BTL: “Take care of BTL and BTL will take care of you.”