As previously noted, the salary adjustment issue is the biggest one, but only one of the 23 proposals on the table for the collective bargaining agreement since 2008.
The unions have been given a deadline of June 19 to agree to the entire agreement, even as Prime Minister Dean Barrow waved away their requests to consider five proposals that were outright rejected from the very beginning. One of those is the health insurance for public officers and teachers.
But PSU president Marvin Blades says the authorities have not even given the process a chance to play out.
The other thing is the Health Insurance: the original Health Insurance was for a comprehensive one, covering all the aspects of the health sector when it comes to public officers and teachers. We have decided that because government keeps saying, but primary care is covered for public officers, which we disagree because we know for a fact that there are a lot of public officers paying when they go to hospitals. So, we will give you that: primary care will not be in the proposal; we will only look at secondary and tertiary care proposal. So, we accede to that and come out with a proposal for that. So, now for you to say no because it is unaffordable and how can you say it is unaffordable? We have not gone through the process yet. They have not gotten any answer from the Ministry of Health, so, how can they know that this cannot work? What is their basis for giving us that answer?”
APSSM president Sharon Frazer notes that for some public officers, insurance is not a luxury, but a necessity.
“And you go back to the public officers, go back to the health insurance scheme, because you have public officers who are making the sacrifice as we speak and paying the entirety. You have public officers like firefighters who their loss is the most health insurance that government is not providing for those who have is because they are personally paying that insurance and the law mandates that. I know that my fellow member, the fire chief is fighting for that, but she should not be fighting for that when the law says so! The law says that. These are not my words. So, these are some of the things that we have been facing, we have been trying to be understanding, and in terms of way forward, we cannot say about that because we need a mandate from our members to decide how do we move now”.
The unions note that they have presented their own solutions to issues with collection of taxes and revenue to help the Government become fiscally stable. But one particular statement of the Prime Minister’s still has a sour taste for some officers’ mouths.
Sharon Frazer: “And in fact, when it is our member, the Prime Minister says we have millions and millions in our coffers. That was another bone of contention with our membership because they are saying, ‘here we are union leaders, being responsible saying, we no hav dih money…and then, the Prime Minister goes on TV and says, we have millions and millions in our coffers. It was a fight with our membership, but we have to let them know it is PetroCaribe fund, and you can’t take it to raise public officers and teachers’ salary some don’t understand, but that is the…so, we have been behaving responsibly. So. while it is there, it can’t go to raises; it can’t go to salary,and we explain that to them. So, we have been reasonable”.
So in summary, according to Luke Palacio, while it understands that the administration is eager to move on, it does want closure on those specific proposals. He refers to statements made by CEO in the Office of the Prime Minister Audrey Wallace on Tuesday on WAVE Radio and this morning in a call to KREM Radio while the union leaders were being interviewed on-air by Mose Hyde.
“That is Audrey’s view. We respect it but do no accept it because she cannot tell us when to bring the negotiations to s close. Our position and continues to be, that is we have submitted the proposals in 2008, negotiations were off and on since 2009, five years ago, so we don’t see why we need to stop the negotiation at this point, until we don’t resolve the issues that we have resolved. So, we don’t accept her notion that we need to call off the proposal the proposal, but well as yet, she is representing but well, like I have said, she is representing have a constituencies, if it is in her capacity as you and she when she spoke…she is representing the government, but our position is, we have a constituency to represent as well; our members, and we represent them to the best to our ability”.
ou and she would speak While teachers and civil servants are concerned about the formula provided by Government for their salary adjustments and increments, at today’s press conference, the Prime Minister revealed that the increase will be a 6% increase.
Previously it was thought that the model would yield a 5% increase over three years, not counting the increments of an additional 3%. Now the Prime Minister says there will be more – at minimum, 6%, locked in forever.
He added that the rest of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the two sides points to increases in allowances and other matters addressed.
But several key points raised by the Union could not be considered for practical reasons. A proposed $7 million health insurance scheme specifically for teachers and public officers would run afoul of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHI) which already serves Belize City and Toledo and will soon go to Corozal.
As for raising the limit for persons who pay income tax, that, Prime Minister Barrow said, would reduce the revenue from which Government pays salaries and threaten the adjustment.
Further, he noted that the International Monetary Fund had recommended retrenching public servants and lowering the income tax limit, as is occurring across the Caribbean.
In the circumstances, he stated, the deal the unions have is the best they can get and it is time for the negotiations between the two sides to end.