Love News understands that the Public Service Union will proceed with strike action against the Government over the ten percent salary cut and three-year continued increment freeze. It is expected that the PSU will strike on Monday, May third. Meanwhile, the Belize National Teachers’ Union is on its fourth day of strike actions. The unions say that it is way more than the ten percent; it is also about good governance. Education Minister Francis Fonseca, as part of government’s negotiating team, met with the leaders of the Joint Unions on several occasions. Fonseca told Love News that the government is committed to good governance.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “We have made it absolutely clear to them and I as I said have been a part of those consultations, that we are prepared to do all of these things. They talk about governance, we have made it very clear that we are absolutely 100% committed. So I think that we are on the same page as it relates to governance issues. They feel, of course, very abused by years of lack of trust and confidence we understand that but, you know, four or five months is not enough time for a government, a new government, particularly a government that has come into office is faced with a national pandemic, faced with floods, faced with an economic crisis. We had to address our minds to those urgent matters so that we could move forward. So, the governance issues, yes, we would have loved to have enacted all of that legislation in the first 100 days, but we had to move forward with vaccine policy, vaccine policy is economic policy in today’s world. We had to get that rolled out and we had to do all these other things to address the urgent fiscal challenge and crisis facing the country. If we can work on those, we’ve stabilized those issues we can now turn your attention to work with the unions on these very important issues of governance which are our issues as well. We came into office on the back of those issues so we are committed to them, the Prime Minister has made that very clear, the Attorney General has made it clear that her office is working on legislation, we’re going to share that with the unions as quickly as possible. So you know in my view the only outstanding issue, the only difference between us is that the union say “Listen, we cannot accept a 10 percent salary cut.” and we have said, we have no other alternative. If we don’t take this action know in six months from now we will be faced with a decision of whether or not we can continue to maintain a public service of 15,000 public officers or will we have to cut persons out of that public service. We don’t want to do that.”
According to Fonseca, the PUP government commits working with the unions with the aim to revive the economy.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “Our commitment is to keep, as we have been saying, to keep this period of sacrifice to a minimum. You know we’ve talked about three years but we have said very clearly, we will review this with the joint unions every six months. And if we determine at the end of the year that we are in a better financial position, that we have stabilized the finances of the country to public finances, if the economy has rebounded, tourism has rebounded, people are back at work then we can end this pay cut after one year; end the wage freeze after one year. That is our hope, that is our objective. But we can only do that if we work together. We can’t shut down the country know and make things worse and exacerbate the crisis that we’re faced with. That will do no good for anyone. So we’re appealing to the unions, let’s work together. Let’s put our education system as a national priority, let’s all agree on that. Let’s not make our students suffer any more than they already have. Let’s work together.”