Belize City, February 5, 2013
Prime Minister Dean Barrow rejected the Unions’ request for a salary increase for teachers and public officers for this year when they met inside the Cabinet room in Belmopan last week Friday, February 1st. This is even after the Unions held a massive demonstration with over 3,000 protestors marching around the National Assembly, which is a stone’s throw away from the Prime Minister’s office.
The three Unions – the Belize National Teacher’s Union, Public Service Union and Association of Public Service Senior Managers – entered the meeting with a huge upper-hand, having flexed their muscle with the demonstration three days before, but possibly short-handed and undermined, after their economics man, Jose Castellanos, had mysteriously pulled out of the negotiations with Government.
It was expected that the Unions would have held a hard-line, especially since the Barrow Administration has stalled negotiations for a salary increase for the last five years. Instead, the Union leaders seemed to have softened up before Barrow.
The BELIZE TIMES understands Government officials concocted all kinds of excuses as to why they could not afford to give a salary increase this year, while merely giving assurances that they “would look into” areas of waste and reckless spending pointed out by the Unions. No real commitment.
The meeting ended with a series of extended promises made by Prime Minister Barrow. The first is that a salary increase MAY be possible until the year 2014/2015 IF there is a positive outturn in GOB’s revenues. The second is that the increase would commence in July 2014, three months after the start of the fiscal year, but six years after the Unions started negotiations for a salary increase in 2008.
Essentially, Barrow has tricked Union leaders once more into “imagining the possibilities” of an improved economy, something that the UDP Government has failed miserably at. This year alone, the Government is facing a $70 million deficit and increasing Government spending.
According to a release by the Unions, their Joint Councils have supported the proposals but the buck doesn’t stop with them, their members will vote whether to support the proposals. The Belize National Teacher’s Union, whose members have been the most affected by Government’s tactics to delay salary increase talks, have begun branches consultations.
It is not expected that the teachers will fall for Barrow’s trickery. The teachers have been imagining the possibilities for the last five years. That is why they sacrificed a day out of their classrooms to protest in huge numbers last week.