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Unions seek $240M in three years - GOB can’t afford it, wants negotiations to continue Print E-mail
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Thursday, 24 January 2013 00:00

Prime Minister Dean Barrow says that the request by unions to have a 36 percent salary increase for junior workers and 30 percent increase for senior workers over the next 3 years is simply not affordable. The unions’ request, most prominently, the Belize National Teachers’  Union's, says PM Barrow, will represent $240 million more that the Government has to find over the next 3 years. That is excluding $10 million, which the Government has to find to pay salary increments for public officers yearly; that is almost automatic (and this should be done in a meritocratic fashion, but this is seldom the case). The salary increments for public officers is 2.5% of what they earn.


While the unions are seeking their salary increase, the Government's position is such that it is working to close a financial deficit of  $69.6 million. There simply is no money available to accede to the demands; however, the Prime Minister himself says he is more than willing to explore alternatives to the request. He explained that he has had talks with the President of the BNTU where he requested to personally intervene in the negotiations but that request was denied by the union leaderships. According to PM Barrow, while Belize's economy is performing better than most other countries in the region with an estimated 7% growth this year, the reality still stands that the wage increase is unaffordable. He pointed to countries in the Caribbean where financial hardships have them increasing taxes and cutting the wage bill (by retrenching Government workers). That, he said, is not what he intends to do in Belize.

As an example, the PM explained that for the union's request to be realized, taxes, specifically the GST would have to be raised to at least 27.5%. That, explained the Prime Minister, would erode the very increase that the teachers are seeking and would additionally put undue hardships on the entire population. Additionally, an increase in salaries for schools where the Government only pays a portion of the salaries and the rest is taken up by the schools, it would mean that the schools would also have to come up with a portion of the increase. This would mean a raise in the fees for these schools which is not desirable.

Also weighing in on the request, by teachers is Minister of Education, Hon. Patrick Faber who says that the budget for education is some $200 million, of that $171 million goes only for salary payments, leaving very little for other areas of spending in education.

Again, the Prime Minister says that he is prepared to meet with the unions to reach a common ground. Meanwhile, the unions remain with their position and the teachers have a demonstration planned on January 29th.