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Oct 17, 2016

Prime Minister Offer Compromise to Joint Unions Negotiating Team – B.N.T.U. Has No Decision

Dean Barrow

On Friday, the Belize National Teachers’ Union had declared that its strike action would go into a third week. It insisted that this was because the critical labour issues, including the proposed deferral of a three percent salary adjustment, were not being addressed to time by Government and Prime Minister Dean Barrow. The Prime Minister had just asked for a postponement of a planned meeting for today, Monday, to Wednesday of this week. The teachers were talking about returning to the streets for another demonstration. But cooler heads apparently prevailed over the weekend and the meeting was held as originally scheduled this morning in Belize City, at the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel. At its end, the Prime Minister spoke with the press. He outlined the proposals relating to the deferral and expansion of Social Security coverage requested by the B.N.T.U., Public Service Union and Association of Public Service Senior Managers.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“In return for what would be the unanimous acceptance of the deferral of the three percent adjustment to next year April, at that time Government would also pay a five percent interest rate on the sum deferred, which I think should basically come up to something like six hundred thousand dollars or between six and seven hundred thousand dollars, which would then be pro-rated among the recipients of the deferred salary adjustment. All to take place – that’s a one-off, of course; that doesn’t carry forward. With respect to the expanded Social Security coverage, which I have signalled from before I absolutely support, that would have to come about by way of an amendment to section thirteen of the Social Security Act. The unions, I propose, can form a working group to go over the sort of language that would give what we all want, but also contain safeguards, restrictions against abuse. Once they have done that, they will get that to me; we’re happy with it, the draftsman in the Attorney General’s Ministry will then prepare it for submission to the House; Cabinet will naturally look at it – there will be a Cabinet paper to approve it, we’ll take it to the House and try to pass it at the earliest, but naturally having it go to a Committee at which the public will be entitled to weigh in.”

 

The Prime Minister indicated that both the P.S.U. and A.P.S.S.M. appeared to agree almost immediately with the compromise; the B.N.T.U.’s Council of Management met this afternoon and this evening, B.N.T.U. President Luke Palacio told us that they would issue a response on Tuesday following emergency meetings of their branches. As to why the change of heart on the meeting, the Prime Minister cited a “good Samaritan” who advised the change with hope that the unions would be better disposed to agreement.

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