The impasse is over and there is a framework to be fleshed out following a meeting between the Government of Belize, the Public Service Union, and the Belize National Teachers Union. The virtual meeting started just after ten o’clock and ended a few minutes before one o’clock this afternoon. Vice President for the PSU, Dean Flowers didn’t care to divulge much on the agreement reached but he did say that there will be no need for the Prime Minister to carry out the threats he made last week to the union.
Dean Flowers, Public Relations Committee Chairman, Public Service Union: “The Public Service Union along with the BNTU and accompanied by APSSM met with the Prime Minister and an official group from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Public Service this morning. We had a very fruitful discussion, very helpful. It was cordial, very respectful and I’m pleased to say that I believe each party left the meeting in good spirits. The details of the agreement reached this morning I wouldn’t be able to go into any specifics as those have not been worked out as yet. I also believe that the Prime Minister will be holding a press conference tomorrow at which time he will speak about the general framework reached or arrived at by the joint unions with the government. The specifics of the agreement should be made available tomorrow by the Ministry of Finance it will be issued via a circular once the details are worked out and so I’m confident that within the next twenty four hours that should be available for not only public officers but for the media as well. It certainly is a weight off our shoulders yes there was a threat prior to the meeting but as I stated in previous interviews we took it for what it was, a threat. We’re glad to say there won’t be any need or there now appears to be no need for the Prime Minister to follow through on that threat but like I said the union is a partner with government, who will always be a partner with government and we will always act responsibly and in the best interest of the public service and the country of Belize.”
A decision from the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) is also pending. The government has asked them to forego their increments for the current fiscal year but a definitive response from the teachers is yet to be issued. Speaking on the matter this afternoon was the Minister of Education, Patrick Faber. Faber says he understands the Prime Minister’s logic and hopes that the teachers will as well.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture: “The matter of increments in terms of the public service of course has been dealt with by the Prime Minister himself and of course this matter also has to do with the teachers and I want to say that I support the Prime Minister’s position fully but it’s not only that I support the Prime Minister’s position I believe that a good majority of the teachers themselves support the Prime Minister’s position. Here we are in a situation where many in the private sector are losing their jobs, many in the tourism industry in fact in the National Institute of Culture and History which is a quasi government body it receives a subvention from the government but it also depends on revenue from the archaeological sites and other tourist attractions if you will.; there is going to have to be – in fact there is an ongoing discussion now as to what is going to be the case there because the only revenue that’s coming into NICH right now is from the government subvention which only pays about 45% of the salary bill per month so there has to be a very serious discussion there as well. And I’m saying all of that to say that asking for teachers and public servants to forego their increments for a fiscal year is not an unreasonable request and I believe that many in the public service and in the teaching profession we see all the jumping up in terms of the leadership of the PSU and I don’t even know if we can really say the leadership of the PSU we see Mr.Dean Flowers doing his thing as per normal and we expect that but by and large we work in the public service everyday, I work with the public servants every day and I don’t get that impression coming from a good many of the public servants that they are not willing to do what they need to do this small compromise in order to support the country’s effort where in fact the salaries of all public servants are still being honored by this administration so I would want to think that the teachers and maybe even the leadership of the BNTU are in that same position to say “My goodness the government is bending backwards.” You’ve heard the Prime Minister say that he will continue to borrow as long as he can to support the salary of our public servants and teachers and I’ll have to say I stand beside him 100% in that regard. I believe that it is on the right track but when everybody else is in a situation where they are losing I don’t see how that kind of hard line position and in so far as there is the push then to say “Alright you can’t pay the increments now put it off, defer it and give us down the road that too I think that all will agree that the situation financially that we’re in now will take a bit of recovery time afterwards. So to say the minute the recovery starts happening and we are struggling to get back to that that this claim will be made I think is unreasonable, I think those people who have lost half their salary or who have lost their jobs cannot go back and claim “Well now things are better for you Mr.Business man so I want my pay over the period that you laid me off.” that’s not how it works and so I am hoping that certainly in terms of the leadership of the BNTU which is the union that guides the teachers and the wider majority of the teachers that they will support the government in this position.”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has scheduled a press conference for tomorrow morning. It will be carried LIVE on Love FM’s stream, radio and television.