BELIZE CITY, Fri. Mar. 26, 2021– With less than two weeks before the scheduled reading of the national budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the consultations between the Joint Unions Negotiating Team and the Government of Belize are still dragging on. Recently, the unions have made the claim that the Briceño administration has rejected their proposals.
The unions put forward recommendations that outlined various cost-cutting measures that they said could be implemented in lieu of salary cuts, and they believe that several of those recommended measures were outrightly sidelined by GoB. The two parties are now set to meet on Monday, at which time the government is scheduled to present a more thorough explanation of the fiscal realities that make the cutting of salaries and freezing increments an inevitable part of their efforts to keep the economy afloat.
The government is proposing to save 80 million dollars by slashing 60 million dollars in salaries and freezing increments to save an additional 20 million dollars in the first year of their cost-cutting efforts. According to the government, the austerity measures would remain in place for three years and would affect all employees paid by the public purse.
The unions are calling on the government to consider other options before making a cut to the salaries of public servants. Many of these government employees, including teachers, have been the sole providers in their households since the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs.
The 1st Vice President of the PSU, Dean Flowers, has told the media that the government is now asking the unions to outline an alternative way of achieving an $80-million cut in government spending — an impossible and impractical request, Flowers says.
“Just the thought of somebody saying to you ‘go and find me 80 million dollars in 2 weeks’, really leaves a lot to be desired. Nobody has that magic wand to be able to shed 60 million dollars off the wage bill to bridge a deficit of 500 million dollars.” Flowers remarked during a virtual press briefing on Friday.
He stated that at this point the union’s options are to either accept or reject the government’s proposals, since GOB appears to be unyielding in its insistence that the wage bill must be reduced. And while the joint unions will have to consult with their membership to determine if the proposal will be accepted or denied following Monday’s meeting, Flowers said that at this point they unanimously oppose the cuts.
“I believe that we are at an impasse. I believe that the unions will continue to resist this,” Flowers said.
He said that the parties may need to go to arbitration or have trade dispute proceedings invoked to move forward at this point. The public will know whether this will be the next phase of the process following the meeting between the parties, which is scheduled for Monday.