PSU President Urges Belize Defence Force to Defend Salary Packages

PSU President Urges Belize Defence Force to Defend Salary Packages

President of the Public Service Union (PSU), Dean Flowers, has called on the Belize Defence Force (BDF) soldiers to defend their salary packages.  Flowers called in on The Morning Show today, saying that the severity of what is happening is being ignored.  His comments come after the government, back in 2019, erred in salary calculations by paying more than what was due.  Fast forward to today, and the Briceno administration is forced to remedy the error which would include lowering the salaries of the soldiers.  According to Flowers, the government should not have promoted the backbenchers to Ministers of State.

Dean Flowers, President, PSU: “Of course the preliminary understanding is that BDF soldiers were placed on the wrong pay scale in 2019 and as such now there is a decision that has been taken to cut their salaries. Now my concern and the concern of the union stems from the fact that BDF soldiers are already grossly underpaid. We’ve called for a comprehensive salary review and we’ve called for increased salaries in particular for BDF soldiers, police officers, coast guard and instead of this administration utilizing it’s conscience and if you look at the salaries for police, BDF, you’ll see that some of these people barely make thirteen, fourteen thousand dollars in some cases. Not a living wage for any public officer who is defending the safety and sovereignty of citizens and this country. And instead of bringing up police officers and Coast Guard officers to the anomaly that was created in 2019 they are instead dragging down the people who do not sleep at night protecting this country. But at the same time we see the abuse of power by Cabinet and the Prime Minister in getting rid of all backbenchers and turning them into Ministers of State. And so it’s that for me is an abuse, an unconscionable act because it costs the Belizean public for having to now pay these ministers of state a higher salary and that also comes with additional costs. Meaning that they now have to have an office within the ministry, probably they will start demand vehicle and all of that. And so I think it is unfair and the arrogance that came with that press release to say we received a new mandate so we could take up the salaries of ministers , of back benchers and turn them into ministers of state. So what happened ? What happens in our democracy now to the role of these ministers of state and the vigilance and they are supposed to be providing in our governance system ? It is not only the opposition that is required to keep the government in check that is also the role of the back benchers but now we seem to have no back benchers. So what happens when a minister misbehaves ? Who gets elevated because everybody is pretty much a minister and I think this is an abuse that started under the former administration and I’m hoping that with the revised constitution that the entire system would change.”

In addition to condemning the lowering of salaries of some BDF soldiers, PSU’s Dean Flowers is calling for an increase in Police’s wages.  Flowers did not come right out to instigate a protest, but he did commit to lending the PSU’s support should the soldiers rise up against the salary cuts.

Dean Flowers, President, PSU: “We do not support the cutting of BDF salaries and instead we’re asking that police officers who are grossly underpaid and overworked be elevated to where the BDF soldiers are. This is now our last position and my last comment on this matter. We are following this matter and we want to start this morning by lending support to the BDF soldiers and I will say to those soldiers and I will say to the police officers and the Coast Guard Officers who are also grossly underpaid you get what you organize for. And if it is that you guys will not organize yourselves to defend your bread and butter then that is on you at the end of the day when you are dragged down to a lower salary than you deserve. So organize yourselves. You have the support of the Public Service Union although we do not represent you but on principle we want to lend support.”

Shortly after PSU’s Dean Flowers’ comments, Minister Francis Fonseca appeared on The Morning Show.  In his response to Flowers’ remarks, Fonseca called them premature; adding that the issue is on Cabinet’s agenda for this week.

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “You know in terms of the ministers of state you know that’s obviously a determination made by the Prime Minister bringing up three additional ministers of state but I mean the president of the PSU knows this very well. You’re talking in terms of increase in salary you’re talking in each case you’re talking maybe about ten and fifteen thousand dollars. so when you talk about three people what are you talking about ? You’re talking about forty five thousand dollars increase in terms of salary so you know there are many other issues that I believe he could be focused on.”

Back in February, Prime Minister John Briceno had explained that in 2019, the Dean Barrow administration sought to regularize the salaries of soldiers.  In the process of doing this, there were officers who ranked as privates who were placed on several scales higher than they were to be paid.  The mistake was recognized and is now looking to be rectified.

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