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Feb 8, 2023

Prime Minister Briceño Responds to Union’s Demands on Increments

Prime Minster John Briceño

Prime Minister John Briceño was in San Pedro this morning for a regional event, which we will tell you about later in the newscast. While there, we caught up with him to get his response to the issues raised at the joint union press conference on Tuesday. As we told you last night, among other things, the joint unions are demanding that the Briceño Administration unfreeze public servants’ increments by April first, or else. We asked Prime Minister Briceño if he is concerned about possible industrial action to come April first. He said it is unions’ right to strike if they believe they need to. Here is what he had to say.


Prime Minster John Briceño

“Well, I have always started with the premise that the unions have a right to strike, and if they believe they have a need to strike, they can strike; it is their right in this country. But what is important to us is that we are doing the right thing. When we met with the joint union in early 2021, we laid the facts on them that Belize was on the verge of bankruptcy, we had no money to pay them, and we all had to do some sort of sacrifice because, let me point out that during the pandemic, public officers all collected a hundred percent of their salaries but if you are to ask people in the private sector, many lost their jobs, many more got significant pay cuts. So, they got their full hundred percent of their salaries, and it was time for them to make their sacrifice. We could have been political about the decision back then because one of the recommendations from the IMF was that we dismiss at least three thousand employees, and we, in good conscience, just could not do that. These three thousand would have been UDP supporters because they have not been hiring anybody for the past thirteen years. So, we sat with them and said let us all do some sacrifice so that we can get out of this together. And, I appreciate that finally, they managed to grudgingly accept the sacrifice, the pay cut for three years and the freeze of increments for three years. One year afterwards and we gave back the increments. Here we are now at the end of the second year, we are about to start the third year, and we have been discussing with them; we have said we are prepared to take a look at the issue of restoring the increments. Of course, it is going to start now; it is not going to be going back. It is going to be going forward.”

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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