GOB Willing to Negotiate Reinstatement of Increments for Public Sector Workers
Public service workers and teachers continue to request their increments be unfrozen. During yesterday’s press conference, the President of the Public Service Union, Dean Flowers, gave GOB a deadline of April 1. These increments have been frozen for the past three years, and Flowers says the union will not wait another year and that GOB must include this money in the upcoming budget. We asked Prime Minister, John Briceño if there is any probability that his government will be able to deliver on this request. He says he is willing to negotiate.
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “Well we can meet April first it all depends on them if they’re prepared to negotiate seriously and work on what we have in front of us then if we can’t finish the negotiations by the first of April it has to continue but if they want we could do it in one sitting it’s simple. It’s a matter of what needs to be done and they know what needs to be done and I appreciate that finally they managed to grudgingly accept the sacrifice, the pay cuts for three years and also the freezes of increments also for three years. One year afterwards we gave back the increments here we are now at the end of the second year we’re about to start the third year and we have been discussing with them, we have said we’re prepared to take a look at the issue of now restoring the increments. Of course it will start now it’s not going to be going back it’s going forward.”
The PSU and BNTU state that if no move is made to reinstate these monies, industrial action will be taken. However, PM Briceño, reiterated that freezing the increments was necessary to stay afloat economically during the height of the pandemic and it is also not autonomic but based on performance.
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “I have said this to them already in a joint meeting that we had around the middle of December. I’ve explained this to them so it is nothing new. The point is that it is unsustainable and as a country we cannot afford it. The higher that goes up the less we have for education, the less we have for health, the less we have to provide the necessary infrastructure development in the country, the less we have for housing. So it is important for us to be able to sit down as partners to be able to work on this. What is important to us is that we’re doing the right thing. When we met with the joint unions in early 2021 we laid the facts on them that Belize was on the verge of bankruptcy we had no money to pay them and that we all had to do some sort of sacrifice because let me point out that during the pandemic the public officers al lof them collected 100% of their salaries but if you were to ask people in the private sector many people lost their jobs and even many more got significant pay cuts. I remember the people at Love FM they had to cut their salaries by more than 50% just to have something for them. So they got their full 100% of their salaries so it was time for them to be able to make some sacrifice. We could have been political of the decision back then because one of the recommendations from the IMF was that we need to dismiss at least 3,000 employees and we in good conscience just could not do that. I mean these 3,000 quite likely would have been UDP supporters because we have not been hiring anybody for the past thirteen years. So we felt that we then sat with them and said let us all do some sort of sacrifice so that we can get out of this together.”