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Mar 25, 2013

Unions and P.M. go back to negotiating table

With the budget now approved by the House, the issue of salary adjustment for the unions is back on the table. There is a meeting scheduled for April fifth between the Joint Union Negotiating Team and Prime Minister Dean Barrow. The PM is rejecting both the union’s counter-proposal which calls for salary adjustment in 2013, rather than 2014 and a payment floor of five percent. The Prime Minister is indicating that both parties had reached an agreement during their first meeting on February first, but the unions say not so. Sentiment and tensions seem to be running high right now, but just how did we get back to this point? Freelance reporter Mike Rudon has been following the story and has this report.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

Who will ever forget these images captured in the Cabinet Room during a meeting with Prime Minister Dean Barrow and the Joint Negotiating Team appointed by the unions? It seemed surreal after a very heated protest just days before and time has borne that out. On February twenty-sixth the unions submitted a letter to the Prime Minister with their counterproposals, and while the response was quick, it was not exactly what they expected or wanted to hear.


Luke Palacio

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

“He responded on the fifth of March stating in his letter that he is disappointed at our response and to our counter proposal because as far as he is concerned we had already agreed.”


And that response has sent the team scurrying to dispel any notion that their membership or the public might have that there was some sort of agreement brokered inside the Cabinet Room that day.


Luke Palacio

“The February first meeting, were again, when we were presented with those proposals. We’ve said to our members and we keep on saying that there were certain good things in the proposals and based on what we had there preliminary, it would indicate to us that yes the salary adjustment was possible.  Having reviewed those and having done our consultations, having presented a counter proposal then we are now at a stage where we want to discuss that counter proposal that will help to guarantee that definitely the members and our public officers and teachers will get some kind of salary adjustment. The proposal that was presented to us by the government had a lot of ifs in it and so that was a great concern for our membership. We are hoping now that if the government is prepared to discuss the counter proposal because like I’ve said earlier, in the response from the Prime Minister, we are not certain if that is going to be done. If that is to be done and the counter proposals are negotiated because that is what we are about, we are about negotiations; we should be able to get something for our membership.”


Marvin Blades

Marvin Blades, President, P.S.U.

“When we went to the table on February first, this team did a statement or actually a written statement, and in that statement, and it’s in the minutes that we got from government, to reflect that’s statement that we cannot accept any proposal or anything from government, or any offers without consulting membership and the minutes reflect it three times and different stage; at the beginning, in the middle of the meeting and after we got the proposal.”


George Myvett, A.P.S.S.M.

“Both parties left the table with, the clear understanding expressed by the Prime Minister himself, that after February fifteenth, the unions would essentially caucus with their membership to input various concerns and that is exactly what we have done. We have basically gotten a feel, consulted with our membership and we have gotten very sensible and constructive suggestions.  Those have been integrated into the proposal that we walked away from the table with February five; so to go back to your statement, basically saying that there was divergence in terms of expectations, I don’t think so; I think that the Prime Minister might not be comfortable with what the counter proposal is saying.”


With that point made, the negotiating team is surprised by the response of the Prime Minister, and just like he claims to be, they are disappointed.


Marvin Blades

“We are very surprise that we would have gotten that answer because it’s part of the negotiation process; you have to give a counter proposal; you cannot expect to get the same proposal back to the table. In fact our proposal only has three different pointers added apart from what was the original proposal. So we stick to it but we add in some safeguards that our membership demanded and should be part of it so we are here to serve our membership and so in the counter proposal we put in their recommendations.”


George Myvett

Luke Palacio

“When you look at the letter from the Prime Minister he is saying that he will not; that he rejects the basic flooring that we are proposing: a salary adjustment for this year and it is his duty to accommodate a meeting and so we expect that we will have that meeting but we have, in our response to him, we said that we want that the counter proposal to be on the agenda and for it to be fully ventilated. So that is where we are; we don’t know if he will respond in the like manner, in a letter or when we go to meeting on the fifth of April and if it is not on the agenda, our position, the three unions position is that we will  not participate in the meeting.”


And the question which has to be on everybody’s mind is – what happens next, especially if talks break down completely.


Marvin Blades

“The joint unions plan of action come into play. We have already contemplated both worse case and best case scenarios. We have communicated to a council of management so they are well aware of it. so if we don’t get, as you said, anything resolved on April the fifth then the unions go into its plan of action, the joints unions.”


Luke Palacio

“We will not be prepared to say that but all we can say at this stage is that anything is possible.”


The unions are waiting for official verification that their counterproposal is on the agenda of the meeting set for April fifth before they agree to participate. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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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4 Responses for “Unions and P.M. go back to negotiating table”

  1. Rod says:

    As far asi can see these unions are not oing their jobs the teachers are still without a raise and they have been given nothing but empty promises so why should the teachers put their fate in the unions I say do it unu self get rid of these unions they are useless and in collusion with this pm and gov. Wake up belizeans.

  2. blackberry says:

    The PM has taken lesions from Guatemala ~ keep moving the goal post ~

  3. Storm says:

    Did the teachers get outfoxed by Saldivar & Co.? They were promised raises from a budget surplus, but the proposed budget has a $62,000,000 DEFICIT.

    Thus, no raises for teachers?

    Interesting that at the same time GOB diverted $60,000,000 to Barrow’s new private cookie jar, the BIL scam.

    I’m no supporter of the union, because it wants outrageous wages that are unrealistic, and it only cares about the money,not about educating our children WELL.

    (You watch, if government tries to discipline the teacher who was passed out in the bushes when the monkey pooped on him, and who asked the students to kill the monkey, the union will defend that worthless “teacher” to the max — no credibility with the union as far as the good of students goes!)

    But in this negotiation, it appears that GOB acted in bad faith, probably planning in advance to raid the budget so there could be no surplus for raises.

  4. mil says:

    The teachers negotiating team is very weak. Need a strong negotiator. Can trust dylan. At the consultation he defend everything dean was saying and doing.

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