BELIZE CITY, Wed. Apr. 7, 2021– Last week, just before the start of the long Easter weekend, the Public Service Union (PSU) issued a statement in which it called on the Prime Minister, Hon. John Briceño, to address and control the conduct of the Minister of Health and Wellness, Hon. Michel Chebat, “before it’s too late”.
According to the union, the Minister of Health and Wellness, Hon. Michel Chebat, has, with the approval of the Ministry of Finance, employed a transition team, and the advisors on that team have since initiated what the PSU calls a “herd retrenchment” of public officers inside the Health Ministry.
The union said that they received several letters of termination which were signed by the Ministry’s CEO, Dr. Deysi Mendez, and had been handed to healthcare workers who, according to the union, were fired “without any value or justified reason.”
“Also concerning, is what appears to be the inability of the Prime Minister to [rein] in the Minister of Health and Wellness and his political lackeys, whose bullish behavior are not only making it uncomfortable for Public Officers within the Minister of Health and Wellness but is also promoting the abuse of Government assets and wasteful spending of Government funds on electronic gadgets and unwarranted purchases, the PSU release further states.
The release states that the contracting of the “nonessential advisors” adds no value to the Ministry and “has merely added to the already burdensome wage bill whilst turning the administration of the Ministry into a charade.”
The union calls on the Prime Minister to take note of the misconduct they have allegedly uncovered within the Ministry of Health and Wellness and to take action.
The release comes after about a month of consultations between the Government of Belize and the unions regarding government’s proposed salary adjustments. The parties have yet to reach an agreement, and the PSU has since rejected the Government’s proposals.
In its release, the PSU, while acknowledging that the “conduct and professionalism” of government’s consultation team has been admirable, pointed to the behavior of some ministers who, according to the union, have acted in bad faith against the public workers. The actions of these particular ministers have diminished confidence in the new administration, the PSU release said.
“The actions of certain Government Ministers acting in bad faith against Pubic Officers and glaringly disregarding the call for prudency and austerity in these tense and challenging times, has only served to diminish confidence in the new administration, thus causing public officers to question the sincerity of the pronouncements made during the consultation and labeling them as mere posturing,” remarked the PSU in the release.
The release went on to object to the Ministry of Finance’s issuance of a memorandum to enforce section 47 of the Public Service Regulations, which prevents public officers from disclosing information about activities inside their Ministries. The PSU says that this goes against the spirit of the Whistleblowers Act and seeks to implement “old-fashioned regulations to muzzle Public Officers.”
The memorandum was signed by the Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight, on March 30.
Finally, the PSU expressed its disappointment in the Ministry of Public Service, which, the union says, has allowed itself to be used as “a pawn in executing unfair and punitive transfers.”
The PSU release commented, “Contrary to the commitment by the Government, the MPSCPR continues to engage in continuous and unnecessary hiring within the Public Service while hypocritically professing that the Public Service wage bill is too big.”
The PSU, in its release, calls on those who have not yet joined the union to do so, and for those wrongfully terminated to reach out to the union for advice and assistance.