And while the union had the media’s full attention this morning, Love News was getting the government’s side of the story. According to the Minister of Public Service, Henry Charles Usher the discussion of a salary cut was never to have included junior officers in the public service or front-line medical workers. Minister Usher told Love News that the unions are being disingenuous in having the public believe that the government would have proposed an across the board cut.
Hon. Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service: “Our proposal to them was junior public officers should not be affected at all. Why? Because they’re already on the margins we don’t want them to fall below the margins. We want to keep them where they are right now. They shouldn’t be affected but it would mean that there would be a tiered approach as you go up; more cuts up to the higher point.. For some reason the union or I don’t know if it’s the general public making this proposal it was a 10% cut across the board, absolutely not we never proposed that. We said this is what we need to save or this is what we need to cut you tell us how to cut it. So where that ten percent came from your guess is as good as mine.”’
Reporter: Did you also propose the exempt frontline workers?
Hon. Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service: “Yes, the medical front line workers, that was a proposal made by the Deputy Prime Minister, again I don’t see any of that in their counterproposal.”
If we go back some weeks ago when the government had just begun consultations with the private sector, you may recall that it was the Belize Business Bureau (BBB) that had recommended a fifteen percent cut for public officers. The government made it a point then to say that they had made no such proposal. Fast forward today and the question now is where did the ten percent proposal come from. According to Minister Henry Usher, it did not come from government. Rather, he says that the government merely said that there is a 65 million-dollar gap that needed to be addressed.
Hon. Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service: “I was or am a part of the negotiating team with unions and what I can clearly state is that in our very first meeting when we explained the state of the economy as it is right now we explained to them that we need to have cuts of between $60 and $80 million this year and going forward for a three-year period. They requested to see figures from us, we provided those figures. They requested the staff list, we provided the staff list. They requested a breakdown as to how many persons were at each level of the pay scale, we provided that to them. Our question to them was let’s work together to come up with a solution as to how we can save this is this money, how we can cut this money this year because you have to remember all we’re trying to do is to have some, relief some breathing space on cash flow for this year. Currently government is borrowing about a million dollars a day, through these measures we’ll still be borrowing for probably six hundred thousand dollars a day more or less. It’s not savings that we can put somewhere else. It’s monies that we are paying out right now that we have to cut back on so we need the cash flow relief now. So we said this is what we need. We provided that to them and they were supposed to come back to say okay this is how we think we can cut the wage bill by looking at this area, this area, this area.”