by Kristen Ku
BELMOPAN, Thurs. Mar. 23, 2023
On Wednesday of this week, retired public service workers gathered just outside of the National Assembly building in the capital, protesting for increments owed to them over twenty years ago.
The protest took place while the 2023-2024 National Budget debate was taking place and included members of the Association of Beneficiaries and Retired Public Officers (ABRPO).
In hopes to draw the attention of the leaders inside, the protestors demanded that two years’ worth of increments be paid to them in cash, and nothing less.
But what may seem like a glimpse of the future with Belize’s current situation of public service workers, actually dates back to a past Manuel Esquivel led UDP administration. During that time, their increments were frozen and instead traded for shares in B.T.L., where monies were then placed in the Public Sector Workers’ Trust.
But those days are long gone, and as inflation has invaded the economy, these retired workers want their cash back.
President of the ABRPO, Hubert Enriquez was there and shared with local reporters the essence of their protest.
“We are here today because, one, we want the Trust to be dissolved and we want speedy action because the government said yes, they want to do it, but it’s taking too long. I mean, the past three months and nothing has happened as far as we are concerned,” explained Enriquez.
Amidst the chants of the protestors and the lengthy debate inside the Assembly, the Ministers became aware of what was going on.
And in a surprising but heartwarming response, the Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. John Briceño, along with the Minister of Public Service, Hon. Henry Charles Usher, came out to address the pleas of the crowd.
PM Briceño was in full agreement that they did deserve to receive their monies, but that for the time being, it was left up to the Court of Appeal to determine when that time would come.
“I just came out to tell you, our government supports you, the ministers here and several of the ministers when we were talking about the case, all of them are in favor for us to shut it [Trust] down, or to wind it up and see that each one of you can get your money at the time when you need it most — when you’re retired and you’re not making as much money as when you were working.”
The Prime Minister also assured the demonstrators that after the Easter vacation, he, along with the Association, would sit and further discuss ways to resolve this issue.
And while the crowd was still left with questions, they dismissed the ministers with hugs, handshakes, and applauses.
The PM further explained to the media, that he plans to sit with the Attorney General to send out an affidavit in support of the court case.