Fifteen offerings – that is what the government presented to the unions on March 30 as they continue to pursue a cut in salaries. The first offer is to limit the salary cut to those making more than one thousand dollars per month. The second is to either do the ten percent across the board or by salary levels. The ten percent cut would then lead to a ten percent cut in weekly working hours — taking the basic workweek from forty hours to thirty six. Ministers, Ministers of State, and the Cabinet, as part of the third proposal, have agreed to take a fifteen percent cut in salaries plus a fifty percent cut in their telephone and entertainment allowances. In addition, the government has committed to the unions that if the fiscal situation improves then a review of the salary cut would take place. Perhaps the icing on the cake is the commitment from the Prime Minister and the Central Bank of Belize to extend the leniency period for loans and mortgages, coupled with the boosting of the Development Finance Corporation and the National Bank of Belize to provide public officers and teachers loan facilities for residential mortgages. These are only a portion of what is being offered to the unions by the government. According to APSSM’s President Sharon Frazer the need for social equity was one of the main factors that the unions were demanding.
Sharon Frazer, President, APSSM: “There were one or two sentiments that was expressed that if there should be a cut let it be across the board. I can tell you that from APSSM’s standpoint we did indicate at the very first joint union meeting that we needed some social equity, some not to create social imbalance so we had asked for consideration to be given to public officers who were on the lower pay scale. This is what government came back with and for the most part it was accepted. Like I said I don’t want to say that it was everyone said yes but for the most part there was agreement in relation to – but what that would have also meant is that we needed to look again or government would have had to look again in terms of the sixty million that they’re trying to save. Although I don’t feel that it is a significant amount that they’re going to be losing from that under twelve thousand dollar employees.”
As for the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), President Elena Smith remarked on the OYE Show this morning that many teachers are skeptical of the proposals offered by the government.
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “In our presentations we made sure that we cemented the position that our members are concerned about compensation for whatever it is that the government would finally decide to look at. Because it’s not just to come and tell me you know I will cut you by this amount, give up another year of increment and there’s no real – and when I say real we are looking at exactly how things would work out because you know to give me a carrot and to say well you know what we will look at this for you but the details are not there then that is what makes our membership skeptical about some of these things and so we had to impress on them the importance, the cry of our members as to one, the impact this will have on them and their families because it’s not just about you the work it’s about your family who you may have members who are not working either and who depend on you and not just your immediate family but your extended family. And then two, what will we get in return for assisting ? How will you pay me back for assisting and three those other things that you’re giving us what are they, the details of that and those.”
Marleni Cuellar, Host, Open Your Eyes: “You want firm agreements.”
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “For example if you’re telling me you will give me some help at the bank institutions what will that look like ? What’s the rate? At what cost will that come to me so those details are what are needed for our members to get the full picture of what it is you are offering them.”
Up to news time tonight Cabinet was yet to report to the unions on its decision on whether they will proceed with the cut in salaries for public officers and teachers. We will keep following this story.