Features — 27 August 2016 — by Micah Goodin
Unions pressure Barrow

BELIZE CITY, Tues. Aug. 23, 2016–In a meeting with the Association of Public Service Senior Managers (APSSM), Public Service Union (PSU) and the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) last Wednesday in Belize City, Prime Minister Dean Barrow requested that they all agree to a deferral of a previously proposed salary increase until next April.

According to the Prime Minister, the framework of the collective bargaining agreement allows for the government to review the proposed salary adjustment if there was “a change in material circumstance.” That change “in material circumstance” was attributed to the recent damages caused by Hurricane Earl, according to PM Barrow.

The term “material circumstance” to which Barrow refers is contained in item 10 of the proposed framework for salary adjustment, which states, “In the event of any extra ordinary circumstances which affect either revenue or expenditure, then the parties reserve the right to re-open discussion.”

While the PM wants to re-open a discussion, however, the Joint Union’s Council of Management is not sleeping at the wheels and is making several major requests, according to documents leaked to Amandala from its meeting held last week.

Among those requests are assistance for teachers and public officers affected by Hurricane Earl, an audit of the execution of the relief assistance and an individual breakdown of estimated costs of assistance per person.

The joint council will also request the revival of the Cost Savings Committee, an extension of the life of the Committee for Enhanced Efficiency in Revenue Collection (CEERC) and a revision of the number of contract officers with a view to reducing it.

Further requests include that the Government institute the Public Accounts Committee, appoint the 13th senator, sign the Anti-Corruption Convention and appoint the Integrity Commission.

The unions also want to actively participate in the reform of the income tax structure and they want to set up a unions’ sub-committee to deal with “accountability and governance.” This sub-committee, they say, must have established the following: (a) clear timelines, (b) a reporting system, and (c) precise and specific mechanisms to carry out its functions.

Finally, the Joint Council wants to press the government to establish a long-term plan to finance national emergencies and disasters.

The Belize District Branch of the BNTU met today, Tuesday, and discussed the Prime Minister’s request, but their president, Kathleen Flowers, was unable to delve into details until the BNTU formulates a consolidated response which may be forthcoming by early next week.

However, she did tell our newspaper that she believes that the BNTU will press the Prime Minister for a renegotiation.

While the Prime Minister is making attempts at moving the goal posts in terms of delaying an agreed salary increase, the unions, it appears, will require some significant concessions from him in return for any such delay.

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