Now with all that said, the question remains, ‘where do we go from here?’ Well, according to Minister Francis Fonseca, the final offer by Prime Minister John Briceno was just that, FINAL! He told Love News this morning that the government will proceed full steam ahead with or without the unions.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “Keep in the mind that the government’s undertakings. The government is committed to doing these things whether or not the unions agree so we’re moving forward. These are things that we have agreed to, the Cabinet has approved so we’re going to move forward with these undertakings whether or not the unions agree.”
Reporter: Okay, didn’t think about that. So you could still go ahead and implement it.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “Yes we will that’s exactly, that’s the instruction we have from Cabinet that we would set out these undertakings, we would present them to the unions but these are government’s undertakings we will do them whether or not the unions accept them. This is a decision taken by the cabinet and that remains the position of the government. This is our final best offer to the unions. We believe it is absolutely fair, we believe it is reasonable, we believe it meets their needs and it meets the needs of the country at this time. So you know they will have to decide what they intend to do. We have placed our final offer on the table, it is for the unions to determine hat they will do and as we have said and as stated in the letter we made it in a good faith attempt to arrive at a solution.”
As we have reported, there are many in the private sector who have expressed curiosity over the weeks of negotiations with the unions. The curiosity and concerns come after many businesses and citizens have suffered tremendous loss since the pandemic, and not much was done by the previous administration to cushion the blow. Minister Fonseca explained that the concerns from the private sector are just, but that the government has an obligation to the public sector.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “The bottom line is that the Cabinet felt that we have obligation to our teachers and public officers who work with us, who are a part of the government structure, they’re part of our government community, that we had an obligation to try to work with them and to try to as much as possible mitigate the effects of the wage cut and increment freeze. They just like the private sector the unions are our partners in development so we do understand that but you’re right and that’s the spirit in which we engage in these consultations as partners around the table with the hope that they would appreciate and understand that we’re faced with an unprecedented crisis. This is a time we’re dealing with an economic crisis at the same time the country is still in the grips of a public health crisis. So this is unprecedented for our country and we would have hoped that the join unions, in particular the Belize National Teachers Union, would have maturely and soberly analyzed the situation and said ‘Listen we understand the critical situation we’re faced with, our members don’t want a salary cut but we recognize that if we do not take a salary cut the consequences down the road could be even more dire for all of us.’. We would have hoped that that it would have been their approach but unfortunately that has not been the case and regrettably you know I think a part of leadership is, leadership is not always about people clapping for you and waving a flag and saying ‘Hooray, Hooray.’ leadership is also about delivering bad news even when you don’t want to do it. Delivering sober truth to your membership and I unfortunately feel that there has not been enough of that in the unions, they have not been willing to deliver the harsh reality of our economic situation to their membership and I’m very very concerned about that.”