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Unions reject land credit offer

BELMOPAN. Fri. Apr. 23, 2021– Last week the Government of Belize issued a Cabinet brief in which it announced its decision to grant land credit to public officers who will be affected by the imminent salary cuts. The release stated that a land credit equal to 50% of the employee’s salary adjustment could be used to acquire land from the Government.

During the second day of the budget debate on Friday, April 23, Elena Smith, national president of the BNTU, said that the proposals, made known widely to the public, were never shared by the government with the union.

“At no point did the government come to us and give us any compensation package, never. In our first response to them, we gave the Barbados model — you all know about that in the media, and then when we met again, we told them about the promissory note and the land compensation. They have not come back to us to say ‘okay, union, we took these matters to Cabinet. Cabinet has agreed. This is how it is going to work out’,” Smith stated.

Dean Flowers, 1st vice president of the Public Service Union, also told the media that they did not receive any response from the government on the proposal, which was tabled at a meeting between the unions and a government negotiation team inclusive of Deputy Prime Minister, Cordel Hyde; Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Hon. Chris Coye; and Minister of Public Service, Hon. Henry Usher.

Flowers said that at the meeting Hon. Hyde was “amenable” to some of the proposals presented by the unions, and that he had even referred to the proposals, and the process of reviewing them, as “genuine”, but Flowers noted that the other two Cabinet ministers on the team —Ministers Usher and Coye —maintained that they were engaged in the meeting solely to carry out their legal duty to consult.

Additionally, Elena Smith of the BNTU has said that the BNTU received no written indication of the offer of a land credit from the government.

In light of the fact that the unions seemingly received no official response and made no agreement with the Government in regards to its proposed land compensation package, Smith called the announcement in the Cabinet brief a weak attempt to beg for sympathy.

“Yesterday we saw a Cabinet brief where it has something in there about land and 50%. Nothing has been told to us, so if it is that you are putting lies in the public to get sympathy, it’s not going to work, because we can put out our version as well. We have minutes for those meetings. If we want to work things out, let’s start from a position of being honest.” Smith said.

She went on to say, in further reference to the announcement in the Cabinet brief, “We have had no chance to look at that; that just came out yesterday. They didn’t even have the decency to put that to us in writing and say, ‘this is what we are proposing to you all.’ We to put that in a Cabinet brief and to expect our teachers to sit back and to say “Oh yeah, they di give wi 50% ah land. Yay!” Which land?! When we don’t even know how many of us can get a piece of ah land, so I must give up my salary, with the hopes that someday down the road, I might get a piece of land, and then you are going to credit me for that land that I get? That is nonsense, man. Fool di talk, but da nuh fool di listen.”

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