Taking centre stage in the past three budget consultation meetings is the issue of salary cuts for public officers and teachers. The reports of such a recommendation first surfaced following a meeting with the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and the Belize Business Bureau (BBB). The recommendation of a 15% salary cut came from the BBB which the government says they would prefer to leave as a last resort. Currently, the government spends eighty three cents out of every dollar they earn on wages, salaries and pensions. In a period of 12 years, the Wage Bill has almost tripled from being at two hundred and thirty four million dollars in 2008 to almost nine hundred million dollars. Government representatives met with executive members of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) earlier today, but according to the union President Elena Smith the discussion did not surround salary cuts.
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “We did not have a discussion in terms of whether there’s going to be a salary cut definitively but we discussed what are the things that need to be done to ensure that we can bridge that gap. We haven’t gotten to the point where we are looking at who should be burdened more. At the end of the day we all are feeling the pinch and we all have to do our part to ensure that the economy can be fixed, it can grow, it can work for all of us because at the end of the day we’re all going to be benefitting. So when we get that information from the government in terms of what they’re saving right now, what they’re doing and how that is impacting that gap then we would be able to determine how that will be deal with.”
The Public Service Union also met with government officials this week as part of the ongoing consultations. In that meeting the PSU has requested a breakdown of the austerity measures, the savings those have brought, as well as any other additional expenditure.