President of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), Elena Smith, says one of the issues they have is the mixed signals that the government is giving the unions. She says in one instance why did you hire dozens of new workers upon taking office without getting a sound understanding of what the fiscal situation is. Smith also spoke on revenue collections and discounts.
Senator Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “If you come to us and you say to us that we are in this dire situation and we need to act now because we need to have these quick fixes, it’s urgent and the only way to get these funds urgently is to cut your salaries, yet while you are telling us that you are at the same time giving persons passes so that they don’t have to be paying the entire taxes that they should be paying at this point in time now how do you explain to me your action and what it is that you’re asking me? If you are able to give people these passes then why are you asking me for a 10% cut right away ? So those are things we have to look at and those are things that our members are saying to us. Listen this is not just about saying to us that oh we will pass legislation and we will do this we want to see that you do those things. So how are we going to be going out there on a campaign to ensure that we are collecting what is out there that can be collected? Because we are not even sure, as unions, we are not even sure as yet exactly how much is out there to be collected because when we give a figure we’re told that ‘that might be so but we’re not too sure’ so how do you get to the point of – we’re being told that ‘we are saying 10% because we did the calculations and this is what we need and so it can’t be less than that. It can’t be 5, it can’t be 2 it can’t be 8 it has to be 10.” as you said once bitten twice shy. We have to ensure that moving forward we don’t make the mistakes that we made before to say “okay we believe you that you will implement.” We have to make sure that these things are done before anything else happens and that’s the position that we are in because of experience, and how do we fix that ?”
Smith went on to say tell the wider population that this situation is not only about the public officers and teachers, but rather it is about the entire country.
Senator Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “It’s not just about us as unions and government employees this is about our country. So we now have to ensure that as Belizeans we join forces, we team up with the unions when we are crying and we are pushing for these things because we see how these things will benefit our country in the long run. If we can implement these things, make these legislative changes then it will help us not to get back to this place in another 3,4,5,10 years from now because we would be able to hold our people accountable, recover those assets that you took from us you know look at campaign financing all of these measures that would ensure that we can hold our leaders accountable and not wait for fifty years later.”