Tonight, things are quickly coming to a head between the Government of Belize and the Joint Unions - and it's the classic case of an unstoppable force - in this case, the Government - running right into an immovable object, the joint unions.

And tonight, that collision is looking like it will result in a wage cut on the government's side, and industrial action on the union's side.

Talks over the weekend were intensive, but the sides did not arrive at a compromise - leaving the unions with a formal rejection of the government's insistence that there must be a pay cut for teachers and public officers.

Prime Minister Briceno had nothing to say to our news team after yesterday's Cabinet meeting, but tonight we know what Cabinet's position is.

7News has been provided with a paragraph of a document, which we are told was sent by a government representative to the union leaders and says, quote, "…I confirm that given the unsustainable fiscal position, Cabinet has decided that it must proceed to make material fiscal adjustments. For the upcoming 2021/2022 fiscal year, this will include salary adjustments and an increment freeze…to yield a reduction in expenditures of $60 million and $20 million respectively. Cabinet is partial to a tiered approach that places less burden on those earning less, and more burden on those earning more. But, it nevertheless welcomes the unions' recommendations on how the above-mentioned targets on salary adjustments may be achieved." End quote.

The letter adds that it would like to have the union's recommendations by Monday, April 12th.

Tonight - just before news time - the Prime Minister's office sent us a statement.

PSU Considers Industrial Action

And that's the message going out to the public in general, but specifically, public officers and teachers tonight.
And those unions are getting their own response ready - in word and deed.

Today the PSU has been asking its membership to vote virtually on whether the teachers and the public officers will respond with a notice of a Trade Dispute between them and the government over the salary cuts.

This evening, we received this internal document from the Public Service Union. The document goes on to lay out the possible courses of action that the union can take.

If the mandate for Industrial Actions is received, the union then goes on to declare the trade dispute between the PSU and government over, quote, "unilateral salary cuts" end quote.

It advises that for those working in Essential Services, 21 days' notice is required for any industrial action.

In the interim, the PSU is considering other acts of protests, such as "Yellow Fridays", which will continue; Go Slow for all public servants; mandatory 15-minute breaks in the morning and afternoon; mandatory 1-hour lunch breaks; a work to rule, cutting all forms of over-time; picketing and picketing lines in front of the offices; and mass sick-outs.

When we contacted a representative of the PSU for comment, we were told that the union is currently seeking its mandate from its membership via a poll. That poll is expected to conclude later tonight. The results of the two rounds taken so far have been overwhelmingly in favour of proceeding with industrial action.

The teachers union has not taken any vote yet as it is currently dealing with a two day convention to elect officers for a new executive. So there is no indication tonight from that important union.

Channel 7