On Wednesday July 23rd GOB announced that it will be compensating all public service workers, teachers, and open vote workers, whose increments were frozen during the period of 1995 to 1997, with some 3.06 million dollars. During this period, the Government of Belize, under the leadership of Hon. Manuel Esquivel, was under pressure from the International Monetary Front (IMF), and so the government was faced with a number of decisions which it negotiated with the unions. A decision was finally made and the Government froze all increments from the periods of 1995 and 1997, and in turn gave the Public Service Union and the Belize National Teachers Union some 48,000 shares in Belize Telecommunications Limited (now Belize Telemedia Ltd) collectively. Then during the era of Ashcraft and the PUP Government, the Unions instead of receiving dividends on BTL earnings got their payment in shares which added up to a total of 794,732 in BTL shares. That is where the $3.06 million dollars came from. But according to union pioneer George Frazer, the former General Secretary for the BNTU and a special advisor to the president of the BNTU, that is a fraction of what the government really owes the Unions.
“As part of those shares, afterwards the unions also opened an account at Scotiabank. So it’s much more than three million, more than double that too. So we want the people to understand, and to act responsibly.”
According to George Frazer, there was a malicious intent to create distrust within the union.
“We know there are approximately five thousand, four hundred plus teachers, at all levels. There are about five thousand established Public Officers. We estimate there are at least four thousand plus open vote. I know the majority of them, and even many teachers don’t get increment. They say ‘We didn’t get a raise.’ It could add up to nine per-cent with increment’
Thousands of our people don’t get increment. Open vote people normally don’t get increment. They got six dollar raise. It’s so much a day, or so much according to your qualification, your skill, and so. It’s a deliberate attempt to try to create mischief and division among the membership and the wider Public Service and the teachers.”
Subsequently, the Public Service Union issued a press release yesterday reiterating that the Public Service the Trustees are to invest the monies and not distribute it. “As stated in the official press release from the Office of the Prime Minister dated July 23, 2014, the purpose of the Trust is to fund various projects for the benefit of public officers and teachers. The Trust will be fully operational in the very near future, at which time all beneficiaries, including current and retired public officers , teachers, nurses, police, soldiers and coast guard, will be invited to submit projects and proposals as per the purpose of the Trust.”