GOB Engages with JUNT in Four-Hour Long Meeting; No Agreement Was Signed
The Joint Union Negotiating Team (JUNT) held a robust four-hour-long meeting today with Government officials. The Public Service Union (PSU), the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), and the Association of Public Service Senior Managers (APSSM) met with Deputy Prime Minister, Cordel Hyde, Minister of Public Service, Henry Charles Usher, and Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Christopher Coye to hash out several topics of contention, which includes pension reform, the reinstatement of increments and signing of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). PSU President, Dean Flowers, says that while union members were expecting to engage in a meeting of the minds, the discussion took the route of being more of an exchange of ideas.
Dean Flowers, President, Public Service Union: “The issue of increments, the issue of pension and public sector reform and of course the issue of the long standing CBA that we’ve not been able to settle. I’d like to limit it by saying that the ground work in terms of what’s the government’s position or perspective on these three issues are and as well the union was afforded an opportunity to put forward what our joint membership position or proposals are in terms of how we should deal with these. I look back in 2021 and we’ve learned lessons from that and we’ve taken a step back in terms of how we negotiate with government and I want to state that government was clear that they are not at that stage to enter into negotiation with us on these issues. Today was more of a discussion and then I guess when we meet again then we will be looking at do we enter into serious negotiations if it is that the response that we get from them and the response that we get from our membership is not reconciling then we’ll have to -“
Another meeting is scheduled to take place on March second so that the parties can come together and decide how to move forward with putting pen to paper and formally signing the respective agreements. But, Flowers says he is confident that there was a breakthrough with GOB regarding the requests made by the membership.
Dean Flowers, President, Public Service Union: “Most definitely and I want to commend the responses that we received. I want to commend the attitude that was displayed. I want to commend the humility that was displayed by the government side because it shows that their approach this time around is not a dictatorial approach because we’ve said it, we’ve learnt in 2021 we were dictated to this time around we’re gonna have a dialogue and we’re gonna meet in the middle as best as possible before we move forward on these issues. So I trust and I’m confident that we were heard today February 15 a day after Valentine’s Day. At the beginning of the meeting my first question was “Are we in a consultation mode or are we in a negotiation mode ?” And I believe the junior minister in the Ministry of Finance stated that we were in a discussion mode and so they came to have a discussion to present what are the realities and then to hear from us what is our position on these issues and then we agreed that going forward we may very well have to agree on either continuing discussing the issues with a view of agreeing or if it is that we enter into some form of negotiations because one of the things that we will not allow is for another empty government commitment to be imposed on us.”