Tuesday, July 16, 2024

KHMH workers protest for pension benefits


Over one hundred workers of Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) in Belize City held a protest in front of the hospitals building on Thursday, July 11th. Led by KHMH Workers Union President Lidia Alpuche-Blake, the group is upset over a June 28, 2019 memo in which CEO Michelle Cox-Hoare informed that they are not pensionable.
The primary concern for the Union remains whether KHMH staff members are considered public officers and are eligible for pensions. The CEO and KHMH Board of Governors, based on a series of legal opinions, have determined that they are not. The Union, however, has obtained their own legal opinions which say that staff are eligible for pensions, and are insisting that the matter be taken out of the realm of legal opinions, and to the Cabinet or the Court for final clarity. Secretary of the KHMH Workers Union, Romilio Castañeda states that the staff believes that since they are obliged to deal with referrals from other regional hospitals, and the staff of those regional hospitals is all eligible for a pension, then the staff at the KHMH should also receive that consideration.
According to KHMH Workers Union President Alpuche-Blake, in a meeting earlier this year, the CEO told staffers that they are pensionable. “There is a big issue concerning our pension, and we just want to send a message that we are who we are. We do what we do, and we are just asking for what we deserve. There is not a worker in this country that should not be entitled to a pension. We just want to make clear that we did the work, we are doing the work, and we deserve what any worker in this country deserves; a pension. In January of this year, they got a legal opinion that they held a staff meeting and told us that we were pensionable based on that legal opinion,” she said. Alpuche-Blake added, “Up to May of 2019, they called us back and told us that they consulted another lawyer and had received another legal opinion. […] we consulted the Belize Medical and Dental Union, and they had a legal opinion from 2009”. According to Alpuche-Blake, the Belize Medical and Dental Union has a total of five legal opinions in favor of employee pensions.
On Monday, July 15th Alpuche-Blake met with the Minister of Health, Honorable Pablo Marin, Director of Health Services Dr. George Gough and Dr. Marvin Manzanero in Belmopan City. The union is insisting that the matter be taken before the courts for final determination, but according to Alpuche-Blake, the CEO has yet to respond to their concerns. At the meeting, the staffs’ pension status was discussed with Minister Marin and the ministry’s top officials. “We have discussed various issues but… they gave us some directives. We are going to be drafting some letters and then come back to the table and negotiate, speak inside rather than outside. After the introduction of the executive to the Minister, we offered the minister, there and then, our stand as the KHMH Workers Union, which is that we are waiting on our legal advisors to give us our opinion to present when the time comes,” she said. KHMH CEO Cox-Hoare is yet to comment on the issue.
The KHMH Workers Union will first meet as an executive, and then with its members, to further discuss this issue. After that, they will have a second meeting with the Minister of Health and the KHMH CEO. They reiterate that they will do whatever it takes to settle this matter.

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