Belize City, Tues. Apr. 20, 2021– Amid the ongoing demonstrations by the BNTU, the Prime Minister, John Briceño, met with the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Workers Union (KHMHWU) to discuss whether they will be classified by the government as public servants, in light of the salary cuts that will be affecting most government employees who have that status. The president of the KHMHWU, Lidia Alpuche Blake, stated that the union had sent a letter to Hon. John Briceño immediately after the announcement that public servants would be receiving salary cuts. Blake states that technically the workers of the KHMH are not considered public servants “when it is convenient”; however, there was still concern regarding their status and whether or not they would be subject to the salary cuts.
“As you all should know, the KHMH workers fall under what is called a Statutory Body. We are not deemed public servants when it is convenient. And the KHMH Workers Union since 2015 has been in negotiation and had to clear this matter, if we are or we are not deemed public servants, because if we are public servants, then like any other public servants out there we are deemed pensionable. And we are not pensionable. In fact, about 400 of us pay 3% of our salaries to what is called the Employee Provident Trust fund, which is a contributary trust fund so that we can have something in case we retire,” Blake explained to the media as she tried to highlight some key differences between employees of the KHMH and other public workers.
Blake drew attention to the MOU signed by former Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, in 2015, which stated that although the employees of the KHMH weren’t public servants, the employees were still entitled to a 14% retroactive compensation under certain conditions, based on the work the employees had done. This led to the formation of the KHMHWU and the start of the trust fund. According to Blake, during her meeting with Prime Minister Briceño, she reminded him of this MOU as well as of all the hardships the employees have endured from the onset of COVID-19. Blake stated that they then received a document stating that the KHMH employees’ subvention would be cut, which prompted the union to prepare a Covid-19 Cost-Cutting document outlining certain sacrifices that could be made in order to preserve the wages of the employees. This document was presented to the Board of the KHMH.
Hon. Briceño was apprised of all these developments by the KHMHWU, and he, in response, pledged to exempt the employees of the KHMH from the salary cut, said the KHMHWU president.
“In the meeting today, he has acknowledged the MOU. He has acknowledged to review the MOU that has expired and see the recommendations that should have been followed. They have the cost-cutting document that is up to review with the Board and the Minister has committed to review it. And they have committed also to us that this Government under this Prime Minister along with the Minister of Health will try their utmost best to exclude us from the 10% salary cut because of all we have presented and all that we have done and keep on doing at KHMH,” Blake said.
The Prime Minister has also reportedly stated that he will do his best to ensure that the KHMH employees’ subvention will not be cut.