Government Unions Agree to Partial Collective Bargaining Agreement

Since September, 2008, the government and its employer unions - namely the Public Service Union, the Belize National Teachers Union and the Association of Public Service Senior Managers have been negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.

At the outset, the unions presented a 23 point proposal, but talks have been bogged down for years. Recently, the Unions started getting antsy - and in response government appointed a ministerial subcommittee to move things along.

That was in August and it surely did speed things along, because after a little more than four years, a partial agreement was signed this afternoon at the Radisson in Belize City.

7news was there and here's what all parties had to say:

Marvin Blades, President PSU
"Although the journey has been long and sometimes arduous we have come this far. The signing of today's partial agreement - this event however merely represents a progress report to our membership and to the general public. We now continue to diligently work towards the resolution of the outstanding proposals."

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"I like to say indeed that it was a rather long process - one that was we faced many obstacles in but at the end of the day, as he has pointed out it's still not really the end of the day - but at this point of the journey we are pleased to present this agreement and we are pleased to sign this agreement today into effect."

"We do have several allowances and benefits to teachers and to public servants and to heads of departments and senior managers of the various different departments and ministries and we believe that this is a step in the forward direction."

"Mr. Blades mention that there were about 23 points in the initial proposal put forward by the unions and to put it quite honestly and to put it briefly everything else that is not in here is probably still on the table and we look forward to swiftly and efficiently rapping up these negotiations. All those who have said that it's taken too long I am with you and as long as I am the lead minister here we will try our best to push."

Hon. Charles Gibson, Minister of Public Service
"Personally I am very happy and very pleased that we have been able to sign this partial agreement. We now have a partial agreement sign and as Minister Faber has indicated a ministerial subcommittee has been formed to help with having this process fast forward. Now those items which were not considered or not part of the partial agreement are now on the table for discussion."

There wasn't much in the way of details, but to cut to the chase, there's no raise in pay, just increased allowances. Faber says the agreement includes an increase in allowances, increase in revenue allowance, increase in housing and rent allowance, increase in daily subsistence for workers, increase in hazardous allowances, increase in travel allowance for public officers, motor vehicle allowance, increase in commuting allowances, hardship allowances, and others.

There is no price tag for the partial package as the Ministry of Finance is still working on it. And speaking of allowances, all of them were frozen in September. That was for the ministry of the public service to conduct a review of all allowances.

Well that review is completed and the paying of all legitimate allowances will now resume. The Public service minister explained:..

Hon. Charles Gibson, Minister of Public Service
"We found that in some cases public officers were receiving allowances which they perhaps should not be receiving. We also found that government was spending over 1.5 million dollars per month in paying of allowances and so what we decided to do we met with the management team and a few other persons and we figured that what we could possibly do is to write each ministry and department to ask for them to submit a list of names of officers who are getting allowances for the ministry of public services to verify that these allowances are legitimate."

"Those allowances, those list that we have receive we have gone through them - they are now verified and we are now committed to have them ready to be issued at the end of this month and those persons who did not get the allowances for the month pf September they will get it now September and October. Nobody is going to be denied of any allowances unless of course it's not a legitimate allowance and I repeat that whoever did not get the allowance last month will get the allowance twice."

The estimate is that government saved about one hundred thousand a month with the review in allowances. The final figures have not been tabulated yet.

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