Public officers and teachers are facing a possible cut in salaries as the Government of Belize continues to bring about austerity measures. News of the cut in salaries began surfacing this week, and today the two unions directly involved confirmed that they too have been hearing the reports. President of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) Elena Smith told our newsroom that the proposal puts the union in an uncomfortable situation especially when there have been recent revelations of abusive spending including the Net Vasquez million-dollar debt using BTL’s money along with the embezzlement of government funds by a few public officers.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “We are hearing out on the street that there is going to be a request for salary cuts for public officers and teachers. Nothing has come to us officially we are only hearing word on the street, we are only hearing that this matter will be addressed after the election because you know you don’t want to have those kinds of things before an election so it’s going to be addressed after an election but how do you expect that we would come and we would say “Yes sure, cut my salary.” if we see that all of these things are happening and nothing is being done to address those matters but ye we must be the ones who have not had any hand in any of that, who have not benefited in any way from any of that will now have to come and pay because persons did not do what they were supposed to do when they were given that position of authority, they did not account, they were not transparent, the did not mind the coffers the way they should have done and we’re in a situation where our country is in a mess right now as we keep hearing from several persons, now we must pay the price for that it’s unfair to us. But yet if you hear the teachers come out and say we don’t agree to a salary cut how many people will come against us? Everybody will jump up and say “Oh the teachers don’t care and the teachers want everything and the teachers-” but nobody said anything when those persons were benefitting. Nobody spoke about that but the moment we stand up against being penalized because it’s like you are penalizing me for something I didn’t do and the people who did it are getting away free. So there has to be some serious push from all corners not just the teachers because we have been accustomed to teachers are the ones who are out there standing up. There has to be this push and this collaboration between all aspects, all areas of society; the unions yes, the chamber yes, the churches yes, the regular working person out there to come together and push for these things to be put in place and by a certain deadline. If we don’t do that this will continue and it’s going to get worse.”
President Smith went on to speak of corruption and the players who are mentioned in the Auditor General reports that are yet to be made public.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: When you get to the point where you start looking at some of the Auditor General’s reports that have not yet been presented that were presented but not made public because the committees were not meeting you will see more of those things in those documents and you will see some of the same persons who are out there shouting and screaming that they don’t believe in corruption and they will not tolerate corruption you will see where they were involved in some of these things. So how do we move ? The only way we can move is if we ensure that legislations are put in place one, but two that we enforce because we have an issue with enforcement. We seem to want to enforce on certain people and the rest are left to do what they want so there has to be a continued pressure on the government to put these things in place and for them to enforce these laws that’s the only way we can get these matters dealt with.”
The Public Service Union (PSU) also spoke out on the issue today during The Morning Show. President of the PSU Gerald Henry noted that the union is disturbed that the government is already looking at pay cuts when they have already submitted a list of suggested austerity measures. He noted that these suggestions were presented to the Briceno administration just before they were voted into government in November.
Gerald Henry, President, Public Service Union: “We are looking at now the issue of the budget coming up and you know hearing that they’re considering pay cuts etc while we have already submitted two reports highlighting cost saving measures and revenue enhancement measures but there’s no word coming out of this new administration saying that they’re going to look at those and then look at if those bring them to the level of financial stability that they’re looking for would then look at as a last resort to the salaries of public officers; we’re not hearing that any at all and it is not as if though they’re not aware of these reports because leading up to the elections we presented those reports to them when we met with them as the opposition at the time. Considering that an election was looming and there was the possibility that they would have indeed taken over the reins of the government and so we decided to take a proactive approach and provided them with those reports. However like I said unfortunately we have not been hearing a single word out of this new administration with regards to ensuring that those reports are looked at with the intent to implement any of those cost saving measures and it’s too easy I believe for them to just come to public officers and sacrifice us all the time. It’s the easiest thing to do and they unfortunately behave like electricity and take the easy route.”
In several interviews with Prime Minister John Briceno, he has indicated that the idea of retrenchment of public officers is not on the table as they would not want a repeat of 1984 when hundreds of government workers were terminated.