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Public Service Union and the Government Disagree #542224
05/08/20 05:27 AM
05/08/20 05:27 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 67,020
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP

P.S.U. Holds Firm on Increments Despite FinSec’s Threat

There is an impasse tonight between the Public Service Union and the Government. The matter has been brewing for some weeks, but the union remains firmly rooted in its position not to waive or defer increments for its members without first sitting with Financial Secretary Joseph Waight to go over areas where the Ministry of Finance is realizing a shortfall.  That collective view follows a meeting that was held by its executive on Wednesday night, ahead of responding to a letter from the FinSec.  While public officers acknowledge that they too are not spared from the financial hardship being experienced across the country, they will not willingly give up or postpone a salary increase.  In a letter written to the P.S.U. on Wednesday, the Financial Secretary gave an ultimatum that if the union continues to reject government’s proposal, the Prime Minister will have no other choice but to advise the Governor General to amend the Public Service Regulations to alter their salaries.  First Vice President, Dean Flowers, in speaking with News Five, says that they are prepared to make the sacrifice, however, the Ministry of Finance needs to be forthcoming with the actual figures.

On the Phone: Dean Flowers, 1st Vice President, P.S.U.

“The position of the P.S.U. is what it has always been and it’s pretty much that we have made certain recommendations to the Financial Secretary on the way forward in addressing any emergency financing that may be required.  We have offered, we have requested information from the FS and we’ve offered a couple alternatives on the way forward, but it is clear that the FinSec doesn’t seem to be amenable to engage in too much dialogue and has already made up his mind as to what he wants to do and what he believes is best in addressing the shortfall that government may be experiencing.  Now I need to state clearly that the P.S.U.’s position is that we are not exempted and we should not be exempted from sacrifice in these trying times; however, we are saying that if we are going to make sacrifices you will need to show us the numbers, you will need to show us the shortfall and together we will identify areas that we can implement a cut and achieve the objective and the numbers that you are looking for.  But clearly, we have not received those numbers.  We’ve made several requests to the FinSec and nothing has been forthcoming so our position remains the same in that we are prepared to make whatever sacrifice is necessary, whether it’s for us to defer our increments or whether it’s for us to forego our increment.  However, before such a decision is taken we must have an open an honest discussion with the Ministry of Finance whereby we look at the numbers and we look at the areas which we have identified that can clearly be addressed to achieve whatever savings the ministry is trying to achieve.”

P.S.U. – “Five Weeks into COVID it was Almost a Nightmare.”

The government, notwithstanding the COVID-19 crisis, has been struggling to meet its monthly wage bill for public officers and has proposed measures that would accrue three to five percent of current expenditures.  Three weeks into the economic shutdown and the Ministry of Finance was already buckling under the weight of meeting payroll.  According to Flowers, the financial crunch precedes the coronavirus pandemic and is the result of poor management on the part of the FinSec.  As to the threat of an amendment to alter their income, the P.S.U. says it is not intimidated, but neither is it taking the threat lightly.

On the Phone: Dean Flowers, 1st Vice President, P.S.U.

“I don’t know if I can say that we’re fearful.  We view the letter for what it is, it was a threat and we take it very seriously and we certainly do not take it lightly.  As requested, for a response prior to tomorrow, the FinSec will be receiving a response today outlining our position and offering alternatives to his plan.  Clearly he has sat and thought about the different areas in which he can realize savings, but we are saying, “Look, first of all we are here because of the poor job that you have done as Financial Secretary in managing our finances.”  It’s no secret that the government has been struggling on a monthly basis to meet its debt obligations, including the wage bill.  COVID-19 is not the reason why the FinSec cannot make this wage bill on time and so how can we then take the FinSec’s recommendation as the magic wand or the magic answer to solving this problem.  First of all, FinSec you are part of the problem because you were charged with managing the finances of this country and clearly you’ve done a poor job of that which has us in this position.  More than three weeks after COVID, only three weeks after COVID we’ve had difficulty in receiving our salaries on time.  Five weeks into COVID it was almost a nightmare.  COVID is not the reason for the financial crisis that we are in, it’s poor management and so we will not be dictated to by the FinSec.  And the prime minister has it within his authority to amend the regulation on the law as he should and he can continue along that way in bullying the P.S.U., if I can use that term, but I want to make it clear that the P.S.U. will not sit idly by and watch him do that either.”

P.S.U. & B.N.T.U. Meeting Tonight Before Responding to FinSec

A legal battle, says Vice President Flowers, is imminent should the prime minister proceed to amend the Public Service Regulations, since he does not have the authority under the existing laws to make individual decisions where that is concerned.  According to the P.S.U. executive, PM Barrow is not headstrong enough to make a move without dialogue with them.  As for the Belize National Teachers Union, President Elena Smith is yet to comment on the latest developments regarding allowances for teachers.  Nonetheless, both unions are meeting virtually tonight to chart a collective way forward before issuing a formal position on Friday.

Isani Cayetano

“What happens once they proceed to effect an amendment to the Public Service Regulations?  What are we to expect from the PSU as a consequence of such a move?”

On the Phone: Dean Flowers, 1st Vice President, P.S.U.

“Clearly any amendment to the regulations that attempts to alter the emoluments of public officers would be an interference with our different terms and conditions under which we are employed.  So I think that it is safe for me to say that we’ll definitely be looking at legal battles, perhaps from a PSU standpoint, as well as from individual public officers standpoint because clearly the terms and conditions under which people are hired does not include the prime minister unilaterally taking such decision as to alter one’s salary.  So the prime minister, no doubt, would have to consult the PSU.  The prime minister, no doubt, would have to speak with public officers and teachers and I, for one, while I take the threat serious.  I don’t think that the prime minister will be bullish enough to make such a move without sitting with us, hearing from us and seeing where we can meet a middle ground.”

Isani Cayetano

“By any chance, have you guys met with the leadership of the Belize National Teachers Union, as I understand as well that the teachers stand to be very much affected by whatever decision goes forward by the government.”

On the Phone: Dean Flowers

“The P.S.U. and the B.N.T.U. are in dialogue.  The P.S.U. and the B.N.T.U. will be putting out an official position tomorrow.  We have a scheduled meeting tonight whereby we will be presenting our position to them.  We will be highlighting the reasons for our position and we will be hearing from them in terms of what their position is and the reason behind that and we’ll strike a middle ground and we’ll move forward together.  That much I can assure you.”

P.U.P. Issues Message of Solidarity with the Public Service Union

The People’s United Party has also issued a message of solidarity with the Public Service Union. It says that the letter of ultimatum has no place in a democratic society where workers are seen as important and equal partners in development and governance. The P.U.P. calls on the government to come clean with the true numbers and identity of their politically appointed contract officers and the total dollar value of those contracts. It condemns the not so veiled threat from the Prime Minister to circumvent the National Assembly and seek to have the Governor General amend the Public Service Regulations under the State of Emergency to, “give the Minister (PM) the power to alter salaries, emoluments, and increments.” It says it is an unnecessary and outrageous abuse of authority which must be resoundingly rejected by all our social partners and indeed by all right-thinking Belizeans.

Channel 5


Re: Public Service Union and the Government Disagree [Re: Marty] #542249
05/09/20 05:11 AM
05/09/20 05:11 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 67,020
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

.
Marty  Offline OP

PM Calls Out PSU For "Intransigence"

So withe government's revenue going to a third of what it needs just to cover its expenses, the Prime Minister is saying that the PSU is just being difficult to make what he calls a minimal sacrfice:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"It is in that context that the GOB proposal, requiring the most minimal of sacrifices from those paid from the public purse, must be seen. All we are asking is that public officers and teachers give up increments for fiscal year 2020/2021. In the case of heads of departments and other senior public officers, they have reached the top of their scales and so they get no increments. Accordingly, they are being asked to give up half of their entertainment allowances. CEO's are to sacrifice five percent of their gratuity and a portion of their allowances. And all other contract officers are similarly to give up some gratuity and some allowances. Ministers have forgone one month's salary and 800 dollars monthly in allowances. Thus, the increment freeze group is, in dollar terms, being asked for the smallest amount of all."

"Let me concretized it, take the case of ministers: ministers of state gets something like $4,000 odd per month, senior ministers get more like $7,000 per month. The one month salary means that in the 2 categories let's say $4,000 and $7,000 is given up, and then both will give up $800 monthly for the rest of the year. In contrast to that which amounts to what, I can't do the math very quickly, but $16,000-$18,000 - the public officers and administrative officers at the high end of the scale would have expected to get an increment of something like $1,600. A first class clerk $900 - $1,600 and $900 cannot compare to the $16,000-$18,000 that ministers are giving up. Cannot compare to what the CEO's are giving up. Cannot compare to what the heads of department are giving up"

"The point is therefore that the increment freeze group is in dollar terms being ask for the smallest amount of all."

"In the circumstances I am utterly confounded by the intransigence of particularly the PSU."

"In the face of the well over 80,000 persons without jobs and wherewithal, Government of Belize still insists on protecting the substantive salaries of public officers. That notwithstanding, they refuse to make even the tiny sacrifice we are asking. I say without reservation their position is unacceptable."

"They do have a proud tradition of sacrifice but they are demeaning it now by their unreasonableness. Everybody else must suffer, everybody else must sacrifice, but not them. It is utterly incomprehensible and Government won't have it."

"This situation, I repeat, cannot be countenanced and Government of Belize is going to do what we must. The PSU talks about going to Court. Well, I will remind them that no court can oblige the Government to pay what it simply does not have."

PSU Punches Back

That's very hard talk to the union, and what did they have to say back to the PM?

This afternoon, we got a chance to speak with the designated PSU spokesperson about the PM's harsh words, calling them intransigent and characterizing them as selfish.

1st Vice President, Dean Flowers told us that from the union's perspective, the Prime Minister is downplaying the long-term effects of foregoing the increment due to public officers:

Dean Flowers - 1st Vice President, PSU
"If it is that the PM said that the PSU does not wish to be a partner, and give up something during this difficult time, then either the PM misled the nation this morning, or he misspoke. We have written to the PM and the Financial Secretary to say that we are prepared to give up something. We are prepared to defer our increment. Now deferring our increment is giving up something."

"The Public Service Union is concerned about what is happening in the economy, and the Public Service Union wants to do its part to assist. The Prime Minister - any statement from the Prime Minister, or any other public figure that we're not cooperating is the furthest thing from the truth. What we're saying is that public officers are not rich people. Public officers rely on each penny that they can get, that will ensure their survival. The increment that is due to us annually, we work for. And if we are successful in our appraisals, we get that increment. And we're saying, having earned that increment, which we hope that most - if not all - public officers will earn in 2020. We are prepared to defer it because we do not expect the COVID-19 situation to go on forever and ever. We expect that it will improve. But, also, what we're saying is that as a responsible union, we realize that the finances of this country have not been managed properly, which has us in this dire situation, whereby revenues have dried up, and within a month or so, we are clinging [on] for dear life. I want to speak specifically about the tiny sacrifice that the PM said we'd be giving up, and about the measly contribution that we would be giving toward the 17 million. Those are very strong words, if not very offensive to public officers who risk their lives daily to provide service to this country with little or no gratitude. But in any event, he spoke of $900 for junior public officers, and he spoke of $1,600 for the senior public officers. If a junior public officer gives up his or her increment of $900 for this year, that is just the face value per annum that the person is giving up. Once you forego that increment, you now have to look at the number of years you have left in this service, and multiple that increment by that number to understand what it is that you're foregoing. When a minister - and he spoke of the different salaries that a minister receives. So, when a Minister gives up $4,000, that's it. He gives up $4,000, and he moves on."

"Let's look at a junior public officer, who maybe 45 years old, having 10 more years in the service. So, he gives up that $900 this year. Next year, he goes to another pay scale, but he goes short of $900, and each other year, that is what happens. So, in essence, that junior public officer with his remaining 10 years would be giving up $9,000 over 10 years. The Minister the minister only gave up $4,000."

"COVID doesn't have us where we are. Mismanagement, poor planning, lack of creativity, lack of discipline, and fiscal management have us where we are. And so, we're saying, we would also like for us to do x,y, and z to fix the economic crisis that this country is experiencing. So, we've put forward some cost-saving proposals to the government."

Channel 7


Re: Public Service Union and the Government Disagree [Re: Marty] #542292
05/12/20 05:56 AM
05/12/20 05:56 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 67,020
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

.
Marty  Offline OP

P.S.U., B.N.T.U. to Meet with PM

In a letter sent to the President of the P.S.U. by Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight, the union is told that if it continues to reject the proposal, the prime minister will use the power of his office. Waight says that the PM will proceed to advise the Governor General to amend the Public Service Regulations to give him the power to alter salaries, emoluments and increments. So we asked Senator Elena Smith if the discussions are all for naught since the government is hell-bent in having its way.

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

“When we meet with the Prime Minister hopefully on Wednesday based on the response that we get then we can be able to share with our members the final responses from them s that they can say if they are okay with this or not okay with this. Then we provide them with our final response.”

Hipolito Novelo

“Do you believe that the negotiation or the communications between the government, the unions, the FinSec is for nothing because in his last letter I believe the FinSec said that if the P.S.U. does not agree we will go ahead and do it anyways? We will take it to the House.”

Elena Smith

“Well again, we have noticed time and time again that it seems that whenever this government can’t have its way then the government goes and legislate. This is not going to be the first time. This is not going to be the second time. It has been done quite a bit and we see where there seems to be that there are trying to put a wedge between the unions to say okay these two have agreed but this one hasn’t agreed so that there is splintering of the three unions f you will. We want to make it very clear that the position of the P.S.U. in terms of all of those cost saving measures that that position is held also by the B.N.T.U. because we believe that the government must do more to save on its expenses. All of the things that they saying, we feel that some of the purchases that they have online that those things should be stop. We are saying that we don’t have monies so if we don’t have monies we can’t be spending like we have. You just left from a building that you own to be renting a building for one of your departments. That is not the behavior of a government that does not have any funds. So those issues, those areas that the P.S.U. raise we are in full agreement in those areas and we have been saying those things for quite some time now.”

Channel 5


Re: Public Service Union and the Government Disagree [Re: Marty] #542340
05/14/20 05:15 AM
05/14/20 05:15 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 67,020
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

.
Marty  Offline OP

PSU and GOB, Closer To Compromise On Increment

We've been reporting on the dispute between the Barrow Government and the Public Service Union.

In the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Belize's economy, like the rest of the world, has taken a massive hit due to the shutdown of the tourism industry, and the State of Emergency, which mandated the closure of all businesses for weeks.

The government's revenue base from taxes are way down, and the monthly wage bill for all public servants is around 45 million dollars. Because of that, Government is asking those public officers to forego their increments for this year. The PSU wants it to be deferred - which means pay them later.

The two sides agreed to talk it out, and we are informed that the Prime Minister and several other government officials participated in a zoom teleconference meeting today with representatives from the PSU, the Belize National Teachers Union, and the Association of Public Service Senior Managers.

Word coming out of those talks this evening is that the Government and the public servants have found common ground on what the cost-saving measures should be. This evening, we got a chance to speak via telephone with the 1st Vice President of the PSU, and he told us that he was not able to share details of the proposed agreement at this time. Here's what he had to say about the tone of the meeting generally:

Dean Flowers, 1st VP, PSU
"With regards to the specifics of the meeting as was agreed in the meeting I wouldn't be able to comment on those at this moment. We are awaiting for a final draft on the agreement reached today from the financial secretary and so once we receive that information and I'm pretty sure that we will be able to make it public once it is finalized and then I'll be able to comment on the details, but what I can say is that this morning we did meet with the PM and his team, it was an extremely cordial meeting and it was very robust in discussions and an excellent decorum was maintained at all times and I am pleased to say that at the end of the discussion I trust that all parties were able to leave the room satisfied with an amicable solution to the proposals that were on the table. The Prime Minister will be holding a press conference as has been announced and the framework on which we have agreed will be shared with the general public by the Prime Minister. I trust that by that time as well we may have an official document from the Ministry of Finance by which we can speak on and then I would be in a better position to entertain questions as ir relates to the details of that agreement."

Channel 7


Re: Public Service Union and the Government Disagree [Re: Marty] #542363
05/15/20 04:55 AM
05/15/20 04:55 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 67,020
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

.
Marty  Offline OP
PSU & GOB: From Compromise to Crash

When we left you last night - it was with the news that the PSU and the Government of Belize had reached a compromise in their dispute over a salary increment. After weeks of back and forth over whether the annual increment for public officers would be foregone or deferred, the two sides seemed to find common ground. The meeting featured the government on one side, and the PSU, the BNTU and the APSSM on the other.

So, things seemed all good until this morning. The Prime Minister opened up an almost three hour long press conference claiming - basically - that the unions had moved the goalposts overnight:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"We had, I thought, reached agreement subject only to ratification by the Unions' general membership. My CEO took copious notes and at the end recited for the Unions GOB's final proposed position. That was what I thought they agreed. We reduced that oral agreement to writing and the Financial Secretary sent it off to the Unions. Lo and behold, though, this morning we got a response from the President of the BNTU, speaking as well for the PSU, asking that some critical words be changed. Such changes would, in my view, greatly alter the spirit of the agreement and are therefore not acceptable to Government. The Financial Secretary is in the process of writing back to the 2 unions. So we are back to square one unless they accept the language that was orally agreed yesterday.

"Where we are now is that they don't want stick by the language that had been read out at the end of the meeting, they want to change the language to say that the increments will not be foregone, they will be deferred, even though they say "differed until" retirement is reached. For me it's not a distinction without a difference. That was the crocs of the matter, words have meanings, we agreed yesterday that it was a question of foregoing the increments and I am afraid that government is determined to stick to that."


Channel 7

Re: Public Service Union and the Government Disagree [Re: Marty] #542450
05/19/20 06:26 AM
05/19/20 06:26 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 67,020
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

.
Marty  Offline OP
PSU Capitulates To GOB, Agrees To Forego Increment, For Now

Last week, we told you about the stern press release that the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry sent out scolding the unions for haggling over an increment when the economy is in meltdown and the private sector is taking heavy losses. The unions and the Government can't agree on how to not pay this year's annual increment. Government wants to forego it, the unions want it deferred.
Both sides met last Wednesday and agreed on a compromise, but, by Thursday mornings, the unions allegedly changed the language of the compromise, and government then said the deal was off.

Well, according to reports, the PSU is conceding to the government's position. According to the Reporter Press, the union has reportedly decided that it will forego the payment, and won't press for a deferral, as was their previous stance.

At the start of the newscast, a spokesperson for the PSU told us via text message, quote, "I can confirm that we have agreed to use the word 'forego' instead of 'defer'. The underlying condition, however, doesn't change, which is that we will revisit and re-examine the government's financial situation in the future, with a view to see if we can, in fact, get the increment reinstated."

Channel 7


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