One of the terms the media and the public have been hearing since the consultations began with the unions is, “good faith”. But how good is that faith? Since February 9 we have seen the unions giving 21-days notice despite the ongoing negotiations, and we have seen the government amending legislation to push the salary cut through. The pattern continues as today we saw the public officers and teachers come out to protest hours before the unions are to meet with the government representatives for another attempt at resolving the current impasse. According to President Elena Smith it is anybody’s guess what will come out of today’s meeting. She told the media that the salary cut is still a live issue at this point, in addition to the good governance demands.
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “We expect that the government’s side is going to be coming and presenting some positions to us. Whether its going to be favorable or not we’re not sure yet because remember now whatever they present to us we have to take back to our membership. So until the membership says yes then we can say it’s favorable.”
Reporter: What is it that they can even present that has not been presented as yet. In fact is the 10% salary cut still a live issue ?
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “It is. I’m sure you’ve heard our people saying that they can’t afford that 10% and they’re still against it so if it is that the government believes that there’s nothing that they can do regarding that then there are other options because you can compensate members for what you’ve taken away from them and so we have not gotten any definitive position from the government in terms of that aspect of our negotiations. I am sure that our actions thus far has probably pushed them to work a bit faster in terms of that draft Whistleblowers Act and so while they might not conceded that we believe that our actions thus far and the time that we have been out has caused them to work a bit faster on presenting those drafts to us and we also believe that if we continue with the pressure that we would be able to get those other draft legislations long before the eight months that they have proposed to us in those meetings. I don’t think we expect to get everything done today, I honestly don’t think that’s the expectation because there’s a lot on the table as we’ve said and so we have to have a lot of discussion and so we won’t hold them to say that you must complete everything today.”
Reporter: What happens then if we reach May 15 by when you’d expect to see the salary cut reflected and that is in fact reflected what will the unions do and you’re still in negotiations ?
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “We do what we do best.”