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Education Minister Says the Ultimate Decision to Cut Salaries had to be Made

Sharing Senator Eamon Courtenay’s sentiments was his Cabinet colleague, Education Minister Francis Fonseca. Minister Fonseca was part of government’s negotiating team and has described the period of consultation as long and difficult. He says however that the ultimate decision to cut salaries is something that had to be done.

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “This has been a long difficult period of consultations and I sound like a scratched record if you like, young people might not even know what is a record, but the point is this isn’t something that the government would never ever have wanted to do. This has come about because we have absolutely no other option at this time and as I keep saying our objective is to keep this period of sacrifice to as short a time as possible. So you know we engaged in absolute good faith with the unions over many months from February 10th our first meeting and at the end of the day we presented to them what we felt was our best final offer in terms of some compensation as well as addressing mutually shared and agreed upon concerns that they had about governance and other issues you know I don’t have to go through that you all know all of those things already, the details of that and that was the decision of the Cabinet. So we put that into that letter of undertakings. We met with the unions, we clarified issues that arose out of our discussions with the unions on that letter of undertakings, the Prime Minister again wrote to them with another letter of clarification and that really is where we are. They responded to that you know what in a manner which I really describe as unprofessional and in my view very political, a very political letter. Very personal, I don’t think that helps anyone. So the government, the Cabinet you know is always open to dialogue. As the Minister of Education of course I have an absolute obligation and duty to work with the Belize National Teachers Union and I’m absolutely committed to doing that. I can tell you throughout this strike period we have had meetings when in terms of the ministry personnel and the union as you know the teachers union sits on many of our boards; the National Council for Education and whenever we have have these meetings that have always participated that continues to be the case. So we are going to continue to work with them with the unions across the table, the joint unions, in good faith. If there are any other issues that we can work on together to better assist the Public Service Union, the teachers union then we are prepared to do that. We absolutely as we have said from the beginning respect the role of the unions.”