Unions are preparing counter-proposal for Government

Unions preparing counter-proposal to Government. For the last week or so members of the Belize National Teachers’ Union vlcsnap-2013-01-31-15h29m35s235(BNTU), Public Service Union (PSU) and Association of Public Service Senior Managers (APSSM) have been listening to their leaders present the proposal from Government as to how to handle a salary adjustment to take effect, if both sides can agree, in 2014. We will have more on the actual consultations later, but first to the latest developments. BNTU President Luke Palacio, PSU President Marvin Blades, NTUCB president Dylan Reneau and acting president of APSSM George Myvette told reporters today that the consultations are now finished and the unions are preparing to return to the Government with a counter-proposal. Palacio explains:


Luke Palacio – BNTU President:
vlcsnap-2013-02-19-19h51m42s45We’re working on the Counter-proposal to the Prime Minister’s Proposal, and those should be presented to him more or less within the next two weeks.  It is not a done deal.  it was never yes or no.  What we said to the Prime Minister, We accept the Proposal, Our Councils of Management saw some merits in the proposal, and we would be taking that back to our membership for  them to give us their recommendations, their suggestions, and then we will come back with an answer.  We don’t really have an answer from the membership per se, we have their recommendations.  As we went around the country we did our consultations, they have given us some recommendations, some suggestions, all of those things will be compiled and form part of the Counter-proposal.

Palacio insists that the unions never said they accepted the proposal without consulting their membership. He clarifies the report on the main demand from the consultations – a “floor” to the salary adjustment ensuring a minimum increase for the public servants:

Luke Palacio – BNTU President:
It speaks to the out-turn of the revenue,  In other words the amount of money that the Government collects. It says the revenue that Government gets over its revenue from last year, compared to the revenue it will collect this year. And then we would get a percentage of that to give us our salary adjustment.The big issue here obviously is what the quantum would be.

George Myvette of the APSSM’s gives a further explanation of the “floor” proposal:

George Myvette – Acting President of APSSM
vlcsnap-2013-02-19-19h53m24s47One of the suggestions has been that there has to be some sort of guarantee, even if it’s based on the performance of the economy, the central part of it. People are saying, well, we have to walk away with something.  So there’s a need to set “a floor”, which means that even in a worse-case scenario, people would be walking away with something from the table.

NTUCB President Reneau was coy on what the next move of the unions would be if GOB did not agree to their counterproposal.

Dylan Reneau – NTUCB President:
vlcsnap-2013-02-19-19h55m48s184I will not speculate.  That is a matter for negotiation.  I don’t know what’s the Government’s position.  That will be something that the Unions will have to go back the membership and discuss as well. They already know that the proposal has been made, and they know that we have to go through a process.  We cannot stipulate how long that process will take.  All we know is that when we go back to Government, we go to negotiations. In the past we used to negotiate, and we don’t know how Government afforded the salary adjustment or increase.  That is something that would have been negotiated and settled upon with government.

No timeline has been set for the unions meeting with GOB’s negotiators, particularly Prime Minister Dean Barrow.

Unions accept blame for consultation scheduling. Anecdotal reports on four consultation meetings held in Belize City, Orange Walk, Dangriga and Punta Gorda indicate that turnout was between fair and poor at most venues. Media cameras were not allowed inside any meeting and no union official save Orange Walk’s BNTU Branch President made any comment to the press. PSU President Marvin Blades today admitted that scheduling difficulties were to blame for the less-than-expected turnout.

MARVIN BLADES – PSU president:
vlcsnap-2013-02-20-09h28m57s205As a joint Union we wanted to have all three Unions present, and it was to accommodate not only PSU, but the teachers along with APSSM.  That was 5:30 in the evening. We believe one of the reasons was because of the time, but if you would look at the meeting for Dangrega and PG and all the other districts, to tell you the truth the meetings were full. And so I don’t know where that notion came that you had very poor showings in the other Districts. [With reference to] Orange Walk, a lot of the teachers were in the villages, rural, and so it was just [a problem with] the time frame. If we were to do it again, maybe we would have try to get time off for everybody. It has nothing to do with either the rejection or the acceptance of the proposal.  It was simply because of the time frame, and we wanted to accommodate everybody because we are a joint Union.

In light of the results, PLUS News asked: were the unions satisfied that the will of the collective membership had been expressed? Here is that exchange.

MARVIN BLADES – PSU president:
When it comes to the suggestions, and that’s one of the reasons for the consultations, this is the misconception that we have. In regards to the consultation, the consultation was to get suggestions of areas where we could strengthen the Proposal.  Now, at the executive meeting, it was not that the Executive agreed with the Proposal totally, they agreed with some parts of the proposal, that to share it to carry to membership.  And that’s why ina my last interview I said that the Executive gave us the green light to carry it to membership.  Now membership has give us some areas to strengthen the proposal for our counter-proposal now. And so that’s what we’ll be presenting to the Prime Minister.  And as you know with negotiations, it’s a little back and forth until we could find an area of agreement.

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