Since the Public Service Union (PSU) made it public that the land their office is on was sold by the Belmopan City Council, there has been clarifications and explanations coming from all quarters including the council and the Ministry of Lands. What was also interesting to find out in this entire saga, is that the union has been delinquent in paying on its lease agreement with the council. Today, we asked the Deputy Prime Minister, Patrick Faber to weigh in on the matter.
Patrick Faber, Minister of Education Youth and Sports: “Firstly I think it was an unfair criticism to the central government because that transaction had absolutely nothing to do with the central government. I watched as the PSU folks vilified or suggested strongly that Minister Jugo Patt was involved merely because the purchaser was from Corozal in the Santa Rita area which is in Minister Patt’s constituency. This is private land that we’re talking about it’s not government land. The land is owned by the Belmopan City Council so it had nothing to do with the government of Belize, the natural resources ministry. And in fact they complained about the quickness of the transaction meaning just transferring the ownership on the books in terms of the ministry of natural resources and Minster Patt reports that that transaction took seven days. We had gifted the same PSU parcels of land in the north I am told and even in Stann Creek for I think small amounts of money the one in Stann Creek for $800 and Minister Patt reports that those transactions happened within a day. So there is now kind of hanky panky going on, the ministry has stepped up it’s game in terms of efficiency, seven days is not something that is abnormal so as it relates to the central government and the ministry of natural resources then we believe they are clear. And the mayor has done a very good job of explaining the position of the city council in Belmopan. I think while the PSU is a very big entity in our country, it represents probably the largest public service body, I’m pretty sure they outnumber the number of teachers that we have, the government has not been unkind to the Public Service Union. Just the mention of those parcels of land I think in Corozal, in Orange Walk, in Dangriga as well shows that the government has been very good in cooperating with the PSU and I’m not going to get into the details, as I said the mayor already made that description but there is only so much that charity can do. You cannot expect and you cannot have this feeling of entitlement, the mayor and the city council need their money as well and you can’t just skip over that and expect because you are the Public Service Union to not honor the commitment you’ve made and that is the understanding that I have gotten after listening to the mayor and hearing even the PSU.”
Of the eighteen thousand public service workers in Belize, the PSU represents a mere sixteen-point six percent translating to three thousand public workers. The numbers are still enough to create some pressures on the country’s leaders should the PSU and its sister-unions decide to strike. Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber believes that if it should ever come to that it would be very unfortunate.
Patrick Faber, Minister of Education: “That kind of thing happens, it is a direct strike against the central government. The public servants work for the central government and if that happens that will be most unfortunate because again there is no quarrel between the central government and the PSU. The three parcels of land and the price that they’ve gotten these parcels of land for we’ve bent backwards this year to honor from my ministry a $75,000 scholarship award for a PSU official. The working relationship has been great. Even within the collective bargaining negotiations we’ve resolved all of those issues now. As you know it’s only a BNTU issue that are still outstanding so if that kind of strike is brought about or industrial action is brought about that would be most unfortunate because the central government and the people of Belize really don’t have anything to do with that. It is a private transaction that happened, the city council is a municipal body but it is not the central government and it would be unfortunate that that kind of demand is made on the central government.”