Another round of meetings was scheduled for today between government’s negotiating team and the Joint Unions with respect to the ten percent salary cut and the three-year freeze on increments. Prior to today’s meeting, the BNTU consulted its members virtually on Wednesday and in that meeting, teachers were told that everything that the government has offered remains on the table. There are those who anticipate that the impasse would soon be resolve but according to union leaders, Elena Smith, Sharon Frazer and Gerald Henry, another meeting is scheduled for next week Thursday.
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “What we did today was to insist on their membership petition that they are not in agreement with the salary code. And that was clearly put to the table. And so, they are aware of that. So we ended the meeting at that point, they are going back to have their discussions and then we will do the same.”
Sharon Fraser, President, APSSM: “Government made some new proposals. Of course it’s, it’s kind of hard to speak to that because we need to speak to our members before in fact we can share that but there are new proposals on the table, but until it is our members say yes, yea or nay, it is would really not be fair to speak to that without getting to them first. So there very well might be wiggle room, I don’t know, it all depends on what membership says, but they did make new proposals. ”
Reporter: How much of the 11 points where you able to cover in today’s meeting ?
Gerald Henry, President, PSU: “Actually we didn’t cover any of those, those will be left until next week Thursday we’re still at number two. So next week we hope to start early again in order for us to complete that 11 point list, and the other points that were discussed in the previous correspondences and the previous meetings that we had.”
Government has already budgeted for the ten percent pay cut and fighting the matter in the courts would be futile. So given the fact that the government’s decision on the ten percent pay cut is currently irreversible, the BNTU is looking to request compensation. Frazer says that the constitution is clear when it comes to the powers that the Minister of Public Service can exercise.
Sharon Fraser, President APSSM: ‘The constitution is clear, the Minister of the Public Service does have the legal right after consultation to set salaries and compensations of any person being paid from the public purse. So, the Constitution is clear, unless it is we challenge the constitutional provision but it is clear that he can do that. It’s unfortunate though that, in fact, if that is what was going to be done from the beginning that we were not informed of that from the get go. But, having come to us, they use all those meetings to say that in fact consultation was taking place as is required in the Constitution under the provision.”
APSSM is joining the PSU and the BNTU with industrial action. A formal notice of it was sent to the Labor Minister as explained by Frazer.
Sharon Fraser, President, APSSM: “I did indicate that we are public officers and the notice that PSU gave would have covered us as public officers. And yes we did put an official of formal notice to the Minister of Labor, that we are joining. So, there is no need to put no further 21 days, because it’s already there, it has already been expired we are we are negotiating jointly so that in fact we fall on that legally we fall under that letter that has already been sent.”
Reporter: In terms of senior managers , go slow? Strike ?
Sharon Fraser, President, APSSM: “Whatever it is, we can, as far as the to settle the impasse.”
Reporter: So in your case, how would that affect the Magistracy for example you are the chief magistrate.
Sharon Fraser, President, APSSM: “No well I said showing solidarity comes in many ways. Am I not here? I’m not here ? So how you mean how does it affect?”
Reporter: I just want to know if you’ll be here tomorrow because I may have a matter.
Sharon Fraser, President, APSSM: “Well I’ll be in court tomorrow, not necessarily the court in Belize City, there are commitments, we are responsible persons but I am not stopping my staff from exercising their constitutional rights. So there are certain things and like I said there are many ways that you can show support and solidarity.”
Union leaders also criticized Prime Minister John Briceno for leaving the country while two unions strike during ongoing negotiations.
Gerald Henry, President, PSU: “I wouldn’t know his thought process. So that’s a question I believe that you will need to ask him why is it that after he’s made the statements that we are partners in terms of the public sector that despite our request to meet with him he has not honored any of those in fact that he has not even replied to us. So take that question to him.”
Reporter: Do believe that he’s too busy to meet with the joint unions ?
Sharon Fraser, President, APSSM: “He shouldn’t be too busy. This is a national issue. This is about every Belizean here so too busy? Too busy ? No man can’t be right? And maybe it is if he is he’s to get on unbusy and then pay attention to what is happening. In a time like this when there are national issue what greater national issue this could be than anything ? That you are going to take leave. You have not shown yourself. You have not come to the table. I don’t know, maybe, I like brother Henry, I cannot speak for him. I just know that I don’t need to put any classification on his absence, the people of Belize can make that assumption, deduction for themselves. Obviously, this may very well not be an important issue to him.”