BELIZE CITY, Fri. Aug. 27, 2021– The Public Service Union (PSU) has informed the public that the government of Belize, despite reducing the number of hours in the workweek of public servants, has not been giving those workers the payment due to them for overtime hours of work when their number of hours at the workplace has exceeded the number of hours in the shorter work week that was put in place. The union has stated that it has been receiving complaints about government’s failure to compensate its employees for overtime work for over two months and it said that it will no longer tolerate the Government of Belize’s refusal to pay the workers what is due to them.
A few months ago, during negotiations between GOB and a Joint Union Negotiating Committee prior to the implementation of a 10% cut to the salaries of most public workers, the government had indicated that it would reduce the work week of its employees —cutting the 39.5-hour workweek to a 34.5-hour workweek and the 45-hour workweek to a 40-hour workweek— in an effort to appease those workers.
However, the PSU believes that, despite this commitment that was made by the government to its workers, the Cabinet chose not to pass the legislation that would formalize the cut in the statutory workweek — which remains at 39.5 hours and 45 hours, respectively. In essence, this has allowed the government to require public officers to work for the same number of hours during which they had been working prior to the supposed workweek reduction while avoiding the payment of public officers at overtime rates for hours exceeding the agreed-upon 34.5 hour and 40-hour workweek.
Until now, public officers, especially shift workers like nurses, doctors, pharmacists, emergency technicians, and lab technicians, have continued to provide hours of work that exceed the number of hours in the reduced workweek to ensure the provision of uninterrupted services to the Belizean public. Since June, and as recently as the August issuance of salaries, these shift and essential service workers have not received the outstanding overtime payments due to them.
In its latest press release, the PSU informs the general public that the union stands in solidarity with Belize’s public officers who have refused to work overtime. It further asserted that public officers are in their rights to execute industrial actions such as go-slows, refusal to work overtime (work to rule), and sickouts as deemed necessary.
In light of this, the PSU is requesting patience and understanding from the general public. Its release states, “The PSU requests patience and understanding from the general public when accessing health care services and other essential services across the country if they experience a shortage in personnel. Our Public Officers are overworked, undervalued, underpaid, and disrespected. Public Officers are humans too, they have families to care for, their mental sanity to maintain, and socioeconomic anxieties to cope with.”
The PSU further called for an end to the disrespect of essential workers. Public officers are encouraged in the release to refuse all overtime requests until full payment is made for previously done overtime work and the government agrees to compensate public officers for hours of work in excess of the reduced workweek.