BELIZE CITY, Mon. Sept. 30, 2019– The newly elected president of the Public Service Union (PSU), Gerald Henry, Jr., has concluded his familiarization tour of government departments and ministries across the country and the union issued a report which amounts to an indictment for the conditions under which public officers carry out their functions in today’s Belize. The four-page report is dated September 20, 2019.
The PSU report says that the union is “…extremely concerned by many inactions, complete lack of respect, willful neglect, hazardous environments, spiteful actions, and lack of job security shown towards most Public Officers in many line ministries and departments across the country.”
The Ministry of Health, however, is the focus of the union’s most blistering criticism. The PSU report describes the Ministry of Health as the worst work environment for public officers.
The PSU described the working conditions in the Ministry of Health as “inhuman,” and cited the fact that many workers in the ministry lack the proper protective gear.
“In the Ministry of Health, priority for employees’ health and safety is near non-existent. In certain hospitals and clinics, doctors and nurses are being required to work strenuous hours in unequipped facilities and under very poor working conditions,” said the report.
The union invited the Prime Minister to do a tour of the Ministry of Health with a view to urgently fixing these conditions under which its members work.
Another area of concern for the PSU is the National Fire Service, the report said. Firefighters are forced to perform without adequate equipment and that has resulted in the loss of lives, the PSU report noted.
The PSU called on the Minister under whose portfolio the National Fire Service falls to stop making empty promises “about bowser trucks and adequate firefighting trucks.”
“We call on the Ministry of Finance to value our firefighters’ lives by putting a stop to the purchasing of unnecessary gas guzzling vehicles for Ministers, CEO’s, Heads of Departments and contract officers and start putting together a proper budget which allocates funds for the purchase of new or suitably refurbished fire engines for the Fire Department,” the PSU said.
The PSU report also paints a disturbing picture about the Ministry of Agriculture, where laborers have been working without an increment for twenty-five years.
“The PSU also calls on the Minister of Agriculture to address the working conditions of Public Officers in his Ministry. The PSU notes that several public officers classified as laborers within the Ministry of Agriculture have not received a single increment or salary increase for over twenty years,” stated the report.
Public officers in the Ministry of Agriculture are forced to endure intimidation and threats from political flunkies and supervisors, the report said.
“The lack of interest by the Ministry to adequately address the stalled BAHA collective bargaining agreement, thereby forcing Public Officers to continue subjecting themselves to undesirable conditions without proper compensation, is noted with much distaste,” the PSU said.
The PSU calls on the newly appointed BAHA board to remain sober and to tackle the collective bargaining agreement.
The PSU also expressed its concern for the Department of Civil Aviation.
“We note with grave concern the disconnect between the Department and the substantive Ministry which contributes to unaccountability, lack of transparency and proper reporting. The Ministry continues to fail in properly equipping the Civil Aviation Department with necessary and qualified additional personnel,” said the PSU report.
The PSU said it objects to the idea of making the Civil Aviation Department a statutory body.
“The PSU wishes to state publicly our objection to this unilateral, unskillful and unjustified attempt to take the Civil Aviation Department down the failed road of statutorization that we’re growing accustomed to see with the likes of KHMH, SIB, BAHA, which continue to be heavily dependent on Government for their survival,” stated the PSU.
The Labor Department is described in the report as suffering from poor management, and the report says that public officers have to struggle to turn up for work every day. The PSU suggested that the Labor Commissioner also take a tour of the public service, beginning with his own department. The union also called on the Labor Commissioner to protect public officers from the unfair labor practices of the Government of Belize.
“Finally, we call on the Ministry of Public Service to do its job. Start holding certain Administrative Officers and Finance Officers accountable for their actions and inactions which are contrary to the Public Service Regulations and contrary to good governance of the Public Service,” said the report.
The union urged the Ministry of the Public Service to stop entertaining the bullying and abusive behavior of ministers when it comes to government finances and public officers.
“The issue of Open Vote workers is out of control and must be addressed with urgency. Equally, Ministerial abuse in employing Contract Officers for every imaginable position under the sun must stop, and must also be addressed with urgency with a view of reducing it (and the wage bill by extension) to an acceptable limit,” stated the PSU.
The PSU also made a number of calls on the Prime Minister. The union wants the Prime Minister to properly enforce the Public Service Regulations and to take control of the Customs Department and the Immigration Department and to address the lack of fairness in promotions.
“The continuous intimidation, victimization and outright disrespect being dished out on Public Officers within the ‘hot bed of corruption’ of Natural Resources did not escape our eyes and ears, and we will be addressing this in the Ministry in the near future,” the PSU report noted.