No to any proposed salary cut. That was the firmly held position of the Belize National Teachers Union when the Barrow administration initially toyed with the idea of docking the wages of public officers in 2020, with the advent of the COVID pandemic. It is also the stance being taken against the Brice´┐Żo administration, following a round of consultations with the Joint Unions Negotiating Team during which a similar proposal was recently made by the Ministry of Finance. As we reported on Friday, government has put forward a proposal for a ten percent reduction in the salaries of public officers, including teachers, for a period of three years. G.O.B. is also seeking to freeze all increments and benefits during the same length of time. That recommendation has prompted a series of meetings within the membership of the Public Service Union, the Association of Public Service Senior Managers and the Belize National Teachers Union over the weekend. The proposal, submitted to the unions in writing, comes amid the preparation of government's 2021 budget presentation. This morning, following a meeting of the upper house, Senator Elena Smith, National President of B.N.T.U., weighed in on the union's position.

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

"While I cannot get into any details as yet in terms of what it is that we would be willing to accept and what we'd be willing to negotiate, we know from the initial response from our teachers that they are definitely not at this point in time and I am not sure if they will ever be in favor of any salary cuts. As teachers we fall under a different way of working as compared to the regular public officers and so you would know that teachers have to provide almost everything for their classrooms out of pocket. And so that is a huge concern because if my salary is being cut by whatever percent that is eight, five or seven, ten [percent] whatever it is, it would mean that as a teacher I would have less to put into my classroom to be able to teach my students and so we have to look into all those things. Recall that the persons paid by government do not only include teachers and public officers, you know, we have other groups, B.D.F., police, all of those who are also paid by government and those persons would be affected. Now how much of those persons who are paid by government could really and truly afford a cut, whatever that amount is going to be and what would be the ripple effect of that?"

Channel 5