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Oct 18, 2016

Teachers’ Union Reviews 8 Points, Says They Got Most of What They Asked For

Luke Palacio

The Union says that its eight-point agenda, the three percent salary adjustment deferral and Social Security coverage to and from work were just about fulfilled.  There was no agreement on two points: the removal of Senator Godwin Hulse as Minister of Immigration and Police, and a five-person Senate Select Inquiry Committee rather than six. As Union President Luke Palacio reports, the Government has agreed to the rest of the agenda, though with several timelines imposed which the union will be monitoring.

 

Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.

“The good governance demands, you would recall, included one, that we want a senate inquiry investigation into the Auditor General’s special report. That select committee has been named; even though the composition does not reflect what the B.N.T.U. had been requesting, we believe that the fact that initially the Prime Minister wanted a bicameral committee to look at that matter and then decided that okay, we will go with a senate select committee – that we believe and we see as movement on one of our request. Of course the matter of the senate inquiry is important because information will come out which we believe that the Belizean people deserve to know. As it relates to the matter of him not wanting to remove the honourable Godwin Hulse as Minister of Police; again, we still believe that that would have been necessary for there to be the avoidance of any perceived conflict of interest. But if the Prime Minister insists that that is going to be the case, I don’t think that we really need to battle over that. The investigation will reveal certain things, we believe, even if the intention is for them to try and conceal anything, we believe because the hearings will be televised, then certain things may be made public. As it relates to the matter of—and I am not putting them in any specific order—the Public Accounts Committee, there again has been some movement in terms of that. In terms of the matter of the Integrity Commission, we are told that the Prime Minister should have gotten within the course of this week, the names of chartered public accountants who are prepared to serve. We will definitely need to follow up with that to see where he is with that and we will be doing that. As our press release says we will continue to ensure that those other agreements that we reached; that those will be carried through. We have the matter of the thirteenth senator. The Prime Minister has promised that on Thursday, he should sign that commencement order and so definitely on Thursday, if it does not happen, you will be hearing from the B.N.T.U.  As it relates to the matter of the international investigation into the Danny Mason case, the Attorney General has undertaken that by Thursday, she will be providing us with a terms of reference that we are to study and then once we are satisfied or we add whatever it is we think necessary to that, then they have undertaken that they will then seek to get this international investigation going by getting an international investigator. In terms of the Occupational Safety and Health Bill, which we have reported that when parliament came to an end that that Bill also died. We have now agreed that the [National] Trade Union Congress of Belize would now be able to champion that further, along with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, because they too have concerns as it relates to that Occupational Safety and Health Bill. In relation to the to and from work for Social Security; that was one of our sticking points and on Monday, yesterday, the Prime Minister agreed that  they are prepared to make the necessary amendments. And we want to make it absolutely clear for those who may still seem confused, the to and from work for Social Security is not a compensation for us to agree to the deferral of the salary adjustment. That was a part of our eight-point demand because Social Security to and from work will benefit all workers, all employees who pay Social Security and have to travel to work in transportation not provided to them by their employer. The matter of our three percent salary; again the Prime Minister was adamant initially that we are making a sacrifice and we are to get nothing for it. Our membership said to us we are not going to give that up and we were able to get the Prime Minister to move now to agree that they will be giving us a five percent interest on the three percent salary deferral that we have agreed to.”

 

The unions have also been invited to be part of a tax reform committee and cost savings committee. As for the Senate Inquiry, Senator Elena Smith who represents the trade unions and civil society confirmed that she will be at Wednesday’s meeting of the Committee, though a chairman still has to be selected.

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