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May 4, 2021

Unions Gather Outside House of Culture

While members were out in the streets protesting, their leaders were behind closed doors preparing for a mid-afternoon meeting with government representatives. That meeting began at one-thirty p.m. inside the House of Culture Compound in Belize City.  News Five’s Paul Lopez was there and files the following report.

 

Paul Lopez, Reporting

This afternoon, the symbol of Union Solidarity was marked by Union Leaders joining hands at the House of Culture’s gates. A mass of union members cheered on their leaders who were moments away from entering the negotiation room with government officials. Union leaders held a meeting of their own to strategize.

 

Gerald Henry

Gerald Henry, President, P.S.U.

“We just looked over the eleven point that I think you guys probably got some details on, maybe even the original documents itself. We looked over to see what the priority points for us are, so that we could go in their and let the government understand that these are the things that we will absolutely not back down on and that is the only way we can actually get into a meaningful negotiation. If  they would understand that the seriousness of those priority issues, and give some leverage for us to back to the negotiation table and in this impasse.”

 

The Joint Union’s strike actions are being guided by eleven demands. Among them, the unions are calling for the implantation of UN Convention Against Corruption with a timeline and deadlines, good governance legislation, rationalization of public sector and a social partnership agreement.

 

Sharon Frazer

Sharon Frazer, President, A.P.S.S.M.

“We are expecting for the best that in fact government has heard. We have made it clear what we are asking for. We have always wanted the public to understand that while the ten percent means a lot to us, it is not just about the 10 percent. We understand that sacrifices need to be made, and we have never said that sacrifices need to be made. We have never said we are not prepared to sacrifice. What we have said, if I am going to sacrifice then certain things that have to be in place. It can’t be that I am making the sacrifice to give up a portion of my property so as to be given o somebody else who come in and has not put in the time, and in fact those good governance measures and legislation that we have been asking for years.”

 

The Joint Unions are also demanding the implementation of policies to control the spending of foreign reserves, as well as continued dialogue about the salary cut.

 

Elena Smith

Senator Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U.

“We expect that the government side is going to be coming and presenting some positions to us. Whether it is going to be favorable or not, we are not sure yet. Because remember now, what they present to us we must take back to our membership. Until the membership says yes, then we can say it is favorable.”

 

Paul Lopez

“What is it that they can even present that has not even been presented as yet? In fact, is the ten percent salary cut still a live issue?”

 

Senator Elena Smith

“It is, I am sure you heard our people saying they cannot afford that 10 percent and they are still against it. So, if it is that the government believes there is nothing, they can do regarding that then there are other options, because you can compensate members for what they have taken from them. So, we have not gotten any definitive from the government in terms of that aspect of the negotiations.”

 

President of the P.S.U., Gerald Henry told News Five that he is hopeful a resolution will be reached today. And if not, says Henry, the actions will only intensify.

 

Gerald Henry

“Indeed I hope that today will be the last day that we will be having this impasse and we could move forward with what we are supposed to be doing, which is working on behalf of the country and people of Belize. Us as the executive, which is fourteen thousand of us, and they as the legislative which is thirty-one members. Yet we should eb working together to better this country, not for ourselves, but for our children as was done for us by our predecessors.”

 

Paul Lopez

“If a resolution is not reached today and the meetings continue, what happens tomorrow?”

 

Gerald Henry

“Well, um the impasse will remain, and the actions will just start to intensity that is all. We have had some actions so far, but it can get worse. I can assure you; it can get far worse than it is. We are just trying to see how we can limit the damage that membership is pushing for us to execute.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

 

News Five expects to have details of today’s meeting in tomorrow’s newscast.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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