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May 10, 2021

Unions Reject Land Credit and Mortgage Proposals; Talks to Continue Thursday

Today marks the eleventh day that the Belize National Teachers Union has been on strike, matching the record set in 2016.  The Joint Unions Negotiating Team and government representatives are scheduled to meet on Thursday and reports are that a decision on strike actions will not be taken until Friday.  So where do the discussions stand currently? And, how possible is it that strike actions will conclude by weekend?  Union leaders were on Open Your Eyes Morning Show today. News Five’s Paul Lopez files the following report.


Paul Lopez

“We are back here again in front of the House of Culture in Belize City. This is where the Unions and Government Representatives have been at it for weeks.”


Sharon Frazer

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

“The position that the joint Unions have was that we couldn’t move past point two on those lists of salient points that we have come up with. Point two has to do with the salary cut. I know that in fact and maybe the public may very well know that the government have in fact put that ten percent cut in the budget already. But generally speaking, you have members who are still saying that they are not comfortable; they will not accept the ten percent cut. So it was hard for us to move forward away from that point two. So that is where actually, we are stuck if I could put it like that.”


The issue is not only about a ten percent salary cut for teachers and public officers, according to the Joint Unions. There are also concerns of good governance. The Government of Belize has presented draft legislation to hold workers in public office more accountable.


Sharon Frazer

“We have received, even before we got back around the table, what resembles the whistle blower’s legislation. And we have set deadlines in terms of when we will look at them and return it back to movement with our comments. As far as the illicit enrichment, as I have said, that is a little bit more involved. We have received it. We have been asked to do our review and in fact return that back to government so that it can go back to drafters. We are looking at July August, in terms of July, August, in terms of that being tabled. The government did not have a draft of the campaign financing we had a draft. And the very day of the meeting that draft was forwarded to the Attorney general ministry to look at it.”


Marleni Cuellar, Host, Open Your Eyes

“So you went from what was the first timeline of a draft three to six months and then implementation, to now a possible first reading within the next three months, it does seem like we are inching closer to a resolution. Is that fair to say?”


Elena Smith

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

“I believe so, in terms of the good governance issues, we are getting there. It seems to be something from our membership that they are amenable to in terms of them accepting the timeline.”


The sticking point however remains the ten percent pay salary cut.  Reaching a resolution on this issue is critical to seeing an end to the strike. The persistent challenge is finding amenable common ground.


Senator Elena Smith

“In terms of the land credit, that is not something that our members saw favorable. They are looking at the fact that not everybody has land, not everybody will be able to get land. So then that will not assist them in anyway. So there did not seem to be an acceptance of that proposal. In terms of the credit and time off for us. We need to work out with the ministry how that will work.   The data package for us, we did not know what that would have entailed. We just learnt at the last meeting, that would be fifty percent of the package for twenty-five gigs, and they will get fifty percent of that package.”


Sharon Frazer

“Government has said they will dedicate three to five million dollars to these institutions. If you want to cover a large number of people, It will mean that we are talking about mortgages of maybe nothing more than fifty to seventy five thousand. Most of the senior managers would already have a mortgage and clearly not fifty or seventy-five thousand. So we would not be able to benefit from that any at all. So that proposal for the most part is of no use to us.”


Marleni Cuellar

“It seems that there are not solutions that will work for all three entities.”


Sharon Frazer

“But I beg to differ because in fact a proposal like a promissory note will work for everyone. What would not work is when it is redeemable. That is where the issue will come in.”


Paul Lopez

Paul Lopez

“One thing is certain; progress has been made over the past week. By Friday we learn the fate of public officers and teachers is going forward.”


Sharon Frazer

“We are better in the sense that we have gone from months of being able to produce draft documents, to now getting draft document. So in that sense, we would have been better.”


Senator Elena Smith

“In terms of the other areas we have made head way, significant head way. IN terms of the cut, we will see if our members are to accept the last proposals that they gave us, then we will see what happens again when we meet on Thursday.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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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