laborThe Labor Department is on a countrywide campaign conducting a labor education session in all municipalities. The officials are presenting information on the rights and responsibilities of employers and workers under various labor legislations and international or regional commitments that Belize has signed on to. Labor Commissioner Ivan Williams told us more about the objectives of the sessions.


Ivan Williams – Labor Commissioner


“The purpose of this training workshop is to bring the awareness of the legal framework under which employers and workers operate, to hear from the workers the experiences and the challenges and most importantly to try to ensure a proper understanding of the labor legislations and to foster a harmonious relationship in the workplace where right are respected in the workplace and responsibilities working simultaneously in a proper manner.”


We asked Williams whether, from their experience, Belizeans are knowledgeable on these rights. Williams says Belizeans need to be more aware of their labor rights as an employer and employee.


Ivan Williams – Labor Commissioner


“I think they are aware to a certain extent but I think you know reading something and understanding it they are aware but the proper understanding is not there because these things are written not necessary in a layman language and so we all have to try to interpret it to what it means and we are not a country that like to litigate so many times we ourselves do not have enough precedent set especially in the employment law in regards to that employment relations so yes I think they know generally but we need to make sure that they know specifically and that will in my view enhance the working relationship that should exist in the workplace; not I work for you or you work for me but you working together for a common cause so that they share in the business and profit and likewise contribute to the profitability and make the business prosper and on the long term having a better socio economic effect on the country.”


But despite the laws, there still exist some unfair treatment at different businesses and in different levels. Williams says they are aware of this but reiterates that recent amendments made to the act in 2011 provide more protection to both employers and employees.


Ivan Williams – Labor Commissioner


“In 2011 we had some critical amendments to the existing labor law Chapter 297 which seeks to address a number of nuances or mischiefs if you like in the workplace and so it is clearer now that employer must respect the right of a worker to abandon service providing goo and sufficient cause or instances where the employer’s conduct have made it unreasonable for the relationship to continue so there are provisions in there now that employees no longer have to so to speak if their allegation is that they don’t want to say anything or they fear that they lose their job there is now protection, there is also protection under the unfair and wrongful termination procedure where there are certain things that you cannot take disciplinary action against a worker for, for example, filing a labor complaint, in the past I’ve heard workers are afraid to go to the department because they are afraid that they are fired, the law is clear now you can go to a labor department and file a labor complaint to seek your rights and your employer tries to discipline you it would be contrary to be unfair to do so.”


Reporter


“Have you seen an increase in maybe the reports have been coming in since that law was brought in?”


Ivan Williams – Labor Commissioner


“That is the reason for this conference because we are seeing an increase we want people to see it clear to the employers and the workers, this is now the law and you cannot an to make them aware that there is a procedure now to address that meaning that you can go to a tribunal and have a hearing and the tribunal has power to reinstate or to ask for damages all of that didn’t exist prior to the amendment and that is the reason why we are coming across the country because significant work has been done in the reform of the labor legislation in Belize and we agree that there is a lot of more work to do but it has to be done through a tripartite approach because we are a member of ILO and everything we do we have to have the employers and the workers together in a room and having the parties together they might not agree of all the points and that is difficult and that is why it take a while and a time to have legislative changes even though in some regards we have already signed in some international agreements which provides the country with a framework under which they should bring their domestic law inline and so this workshop and these seminars is to point clearly to those rights and responsibilities in the workplace and hopefully that both parties can coexist and respect each other.”


So far the department officials have visited six municipalities making their visit to Orange Walk their seventh session.

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