Headline — 25 October 2013 — by Kareem Clarke
GOB “rolling in $$$,” but no raise-a-pay!

“Public servants, teachers …want more …not less than 6%, and I’m saying I can’t do that.” – PM Barrow

While Prime Minister Dean Barrow had recently declared to the nation that there are currently “millions and millions” of dollars in the government’s coffers, which prompted the unions to clamor for a long awaited salary adjustment, apparently the time is still not right for government to accommodate such an increase for public servants.

During an event organized by the Belizean Task Force in Los Angeles, California, last Sunday, October 20, Barrow responded to several questions that were posed by Belizeans in the diaspora regarding their concerns about various national issues affecting the country of Belize and its populace.

One of those questions to which the Prime Minister responded was about training programs to empower public officers in order for them to be able to provide enhanced services to the general public. While answering the question, Barrow veered off into the union’s call for a salary adjustment.

He said, “I don’t want to quarrel with the unions at all, but it has struck me that while again we know we’re at an impasse with the unions, the Public Service Union and the Belize National Teacher’s Union, over the question of salary increases, we’ve made a commitment for 50% of any increase in the recurrent revenue to go to them, the public servants and the teachers for a salary increase…they want more, they want a floor, not less than 6%, and I’m saying I can’t do that; I need to see what our recurrent revenue will be, and how we’ll be able to manage. But it strikes me that the unions don’t do enough by way of themselves trying to equip their membership better for the roles that teachers and public servants – public servants in particular, have to play.”

Prime Minister Barrow then went on to “enter an appeal for the unions to do more than just advocate for salary increases”, which he acknowledged is “a huge part of their remit, but it cannot be the only thing they do.”

“I do want to ask them to look [at this issue] with us, and by themselves as well, to look at this question of trying to do more in terms of opportunities they might create for their members to be trained, to go on seminars, and to have some sort of a continuing watching brief, so that they can say to the public, when they demand salary increases that ultimately taxpayers have to fund – ‘but you know we deserve it because we can tell you that the public service has done an excellent job’ – I don’t think we’re there yet,” Barrow commented.

Amandala contacted BNTU President, Luke Palacio, who told us that their negotiating team will meet on Tuesday, October 28, to discuss the matter, after which their views and comments will be made public.

PM Barrow and his wife are presently on a 9-day visit to Los Angeles, and they are scheduled to return to Belize tomorrow, Friday.

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