BELMOPAN, Fri. Mar. 5, 2021– After weeks of budget consultations with various social partners and stakeholders in a number of economic sectors, the Government of Belize has sent a letter to labor union leaders proposing salary cuts and increment freezes totaling $240 million over the next three years. The reduction in salaries is proposed to begin in the coming fiscal year and to remain in place until the fiscal year 2023/2024, saving an estimated $180 million over those three years.
The letter, written to the leaders of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), the Public Service Union (PSU), and the Association of Public Service Senior Managers, states, “It is expected that the unions will recommend the method by which such minimum savings will be achieved, for example, by way of a flat rate across-the-board adjustment or a progressive salary band-based adjustment.”
Along with the reduction in salaries, GOB will also continue its freeze on increments for the next three years, saving an approximate $20 million per year, or a total of $60 million, according to the letter.
The Government also reassured the unions that at retirement, the pensions of the affected public officers will be calculated as if the three-year salary adjustment never took place. The Government will also make efforts to encourage the National Bank of Belize and the Development Finance Corporation to assist public officers with residential mortgages.
The unions have requested data on the number of public sector employees and the cumulative salaries in salary bands starting at $10,000 and those salary bands that are higher by a multiple of $2,000. The Financial Secretary committed to providing this data to the unions by March 8, 2021. Also, the full list of Government employees is expected to be provided soon.
While these proposals have been put forward by the Government, the unions will have to give their consent before they can be implemented. Recently, the president of the Public Service Union stated that they made no proposal to the Government pertaining to salary cuts. Instead, they focused on looking at ways to increase revenue, as well as putting in place structures and monitoring systems to ensure that Government performs responsibly and shares the tax burden. He shared that of these proposals put forward by the joint union negotiating team, none were a part of the proposals issued by the Government.
The President of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) has gone on the record to reject the proposals for the salary cuts put forward by the Government of Belize.
In total, public servants could be facing a 10% salary cut if these proposals are accepted and implemented by the Government.