BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 13, 2021– Today the Joint Unions Negotiating Team and the Government of Belize entered a meeting to discuss the new proposals presented by government in its bid to bring an end to the ongoing impasse in the negotiations between the two parties.
Yesterday, however, the Prime Minister, Hon. John Briceño, delivered a televised address in which he made the public aware of the details of the negotiations between the unions and the Government — a move that is being viewed as preemptive by the unions.
In his address, Hon. Briceño said that the measures being proposed are the government’s “last and best offer” to the unions.
National president of the Belize National Teachers Union, Elena Smith, called the move by the Prime Minister cowardly, since he shied away from speaking directly to the unions.
“We know fully well what happened yesterday, and we know that the Prime Minister showed how cowardly he is by going to the media, by putting their document that should come to the Joint Unions for us to be able to review and take a position on it. He chose to go to the media via his, whatever he did, his address, to say to us, this is what we are providing. Why is it that he can’t do what we are doing? Why can’t he face the program [crowd] and why can’t he face the press?” commented Smith.
Smith said that the Prime Minister’s actions were an attempt to stifle the unions, since he broke from decorum and disclosed details of the proposals that should have been a part of the negotiations.
“We want to make it very clear. It seems as if though they forgot where they came from and how they were formed, and it also seems that the Prime Minister forgets the importance of unionism to our democracy, and for that reason, he is trying to stifle our democracy by stifling our trade unions in this country,” Smith said.
Smith also asserted that the union members will have the final say as to whether they want to agree to the set of proposals put forward by the Prime Minister in his letter.
“So when are we going to stand up to the tyrants that want to think that they can come to us and tell us here as if though they are giving us crumbs, take it or leave it. Is that what we are prepared to do? Is that what we want to do? Dictate in this country when we must stop striking and how we must do it? And this is our last appeal to you, and this is our last offer that we are giving you. Well, members, the ball is now in your court, and you will make this decision as to whether it is you are going to listen or abide by what was presented to the nation and to the world,” Smith remarked.
Today Cabinet released a brief which stated, “The Ministerial Consultation Team, in their recent meetings with the Joint Unions, decided that the Prime Minister will inform the unions of government’s firm position in writing. Additionally, PM Briceño informed that he would address the nation on the position of the Government, as he felt that ALL Belizeans have a right to know the real situation going into this meeting between the parties.”
In a late evening interview with PSU president Gerald Henry, he shared, “We got an apology for that already, that the nature of these things you know, someone may jump the gun, sometimes we do it as well, we may jump the gun we try not to but you know it’s just the way things are we apologize when we realize we make mistakes.”