Features — 08 February 2013 — by Miriam Longsworth

The Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU), the Public Service Union (PSU), and the Association of Public Service Senior Managers (APSSM) held a meeting yesterday, Wednesday, with their Belize City membership to present the proposal given by the Government of Belize with regards to salary adjustments.

It was expected that about 600 union members would be present at the meeting; however, only about 150 attended the meeting at the Holy Redeemer Parish Hall. Amandala understands that it was speculated that the turnout was due to the time of the meeting, which was scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m., and a number of members could not make the meeting.

Others speculated that some of the membership was disappointed in the proposal because they were expecting something more concrete than what the government has offered.

Those with that concern said that the proposal entails too many “ifs.” Those “ifs” relate to the fact that the salary adjustment is dependent upon the government’s recurrent revenue. If the growth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) results in a growth in recurrent revenue, then there will be financing to provide the salary adjustment. That conditionality seemed to not have settled well with the membership.

The membership was assured that there is nothing to be discouraged about because the proposal is guaranteeing a yearly salary adjustment depending on the government’s recurrent revenue. The only unsettled aspect of the proposal is the percentage of increase they will receive, but it has been agreed it would not exceed 10 percent. Additionally, if for any reason there is a year without any increase in economic growth, then there will be no salary adjustment for that year.

Among the teachers who raised concerns at the meeting, one mentioned that he is disappointed in the proposal’s “ifs,” because the union presidents led them in a demonstration for which they received strong support and in his view, the union heads went into the meeting with the government from a position of strength. But it seems as if they came out with uncertainty, the teacher stated. The teacher went on to say that he is discouraged because the “bread and butter issue” seemed to have been overstepped, leaving with them a “promissory nada.”

The general purpose of the Wednesday meeting was not to carry out a “yes” or “no” poll on acceptance of the proposal among the attendees, but to simply endorse the proposal and hear the concerns of the membership. After all the branches have been informed, the unions’ executives will pool the feedback and determine what will be the next move for the executive – including their response to the conditions on which a salary adjustment would depend.

The media was denied an interview at the end of the meeting because the unions said that they prefer to wait until after all their members are informed of the proposal. The Southern memberships were consulted today, Thursday, and the Western and Northern memberships will be consulted between Monday, February 11, and Wednesday, February 13.

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