The Government of Belize has estimated that teachers and public officers, based on a special formula of 50% of gross revenue, will receive some $22 million more in salary, not including increments, for the next three years.
It is the biggest of 23 proposals under discussion for the past five years between a specially-constituted negotiating team of senior Government officials, including at times Prime Minister Dean Barrow, and that of the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU), Public Service Union (PSU), and Association of Public Service Senior Managers (APSSM).
A majority of the proposals have been agreed on, but the unions say they want to be absolutely sure of the final product on the adjustment, which is presently estimated at 5.5% but could be more.
Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Financial Secretary Joseph Waight, BNTU president Luke Palacio told the press what exactly they are after.
“In terms of the salary adjustment, we need to make it known that it was the Prime Minister himself who gave us or proposed that formula for the salary adjustment, and if that formula, based on what they proposed that we can get more than 5% salary adjustment, we are going after that simply because the contention, years gone by when that day giving us bogus figures, they have given us an opportunity for our people to go in and verify the figures, we welcome that very much, so that when we put up an argument, even if it were to our members, if it were less than the 5%, that look these are the real figures and we have to live with that reality. So, please let us understand: we are not asking for more than 5%: we are asking for what the formula affords”.
The unions say they are to meet with their members as well as the National Trade Union Congress of Belize to provide updates. PSU president Marvin Blades made a sober comparison with the original proposals of the unions as an example of their ability to compromise.
“If you would look at what we got and what were the original proposals, you would see that the Union compromised a lot and we try, in a lot of these things to get less. For example, look, they keep talking about our salary adjustment. Our salary adjustment agreement says 30% over three years, but if based on what we are working and we were willing to negotiate and look this purse formula, because at the end of the day, this formula could give you 2% or give you 1%; it is not the 30% that we started out, but we were willing to negotiate and it is the same principal we are saying in all the different proposals”.
The newly elected president of the APSSM, Senior Magistrate Sharon Frazer, notes that they have had their own battles with their membership over perceived betrayals of the workers’ demands, most notably the issue of a floor.
“Even as it relates to the salary adjustment, it is one fight with our membership who had mandated us to put a floor. We fought and fought and we will tell you, we did not all agree because we had some Unions that were saying, we have a formula, so there is no need for a floor. There were other Union members that were saying, ‘no man, the government has set a ceiling, so, why there shouldn’t be a floor, right? We said, no. So, we have been behaving responsible; we are saying, if it is that we say 5%, and the formula gives us 3%, where will the government find the next 2%? So, we went back with our membership with this saying, we need to be responsible; we need to understand the fiscal realities”.
The unions will be meeting with their membership beginning this week and expect to outline jointly the way forward thereafter.