By Benjamin Flowers: The Office of the Labour Commissioner issued a statement today, acknowledging that the members of the joint union Negotiating Team have a right to industrial action in its ongoing dispute with the Government of Belize; but condemned the actions being taken some of are criminal offences, noting that members of the wider public are being affected.
The Labour Commissioner, Ann Marie Thompson, said that the Public Service Unions, the Association of Public Service Senior Managers, the Belize National Teachers’ Union, and the National Trade Union Congress of Belize all have a right to freedom of assembly and association and the freedom of expression as enshrined in the Belize Constitution and International Labour Organization Conventions, which has been ratified.
Thompson said that the Ministry of Labour respects that right, however; the unions also have responsibilities that come with those rights, which include the responsibility to act responsibly, lawfully and must respect the rights of others.
“The blocking of highways and bridges are unlawful actions which are not internationally recognized industrial action nor those permitted by our domestic laws, and we must condemn this kind of activity,” Thompson said. “The congregation of persons in numbers larger than 10 are in flagrant breach of the COVID-19 Public Health Regulations. We, therefore, urge the unions to abstain from criminal and reckless activities that are harmful and reckless to the wider public.”
Yesterday, the unions blocked off major roads across the country as well as bridges in and around Belize City. The blockades caused many to be late for work, and one media house reported that a baby was almost born in traffic due to the delay experienced on the road.