Barbed Wire Noose - $1.2 Billion around Tax Payers’ Necks by 2029 Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 31 January 2013 00:00

RallyJose Castellanos, President of the Association of Public Service Senior Managers, said they have estimated that their salary adjustment would cost the government an additional ,500,000 in 2013, ,000,000 in 2014 and ,000,000 in 2015. Based on the unions’ estimates by 2029, the final year of the pre-restructured Superbond, the salary adjustments being requested will cost tax payers an additional .2 billion. Government has been firm in saying to the unions that tax payers cannot afford to take on the increase at this time but the unions “shall not be moved”.

On Tuesday, January 29th, the Belize National Teachers Union held a demonstration in the capital city, Belmopan. Over 2,000 teachers attended and marched around the city’s Ring Road chanting “Solidarity Forever” and “Salary Adjustment”. It was an impressive display of unity as the teachers marched towards the steps of the National Assembly building. They were energetic yet peaceful and effective. The massive crowd stood strong even at the peak of the sun’s wrath as they listened to poems and sang motivational songs. Though many of them were out from as early as 9 a.m., they remained responsive throughout numerous speeches lasting until 2:20 p.m. In their addresses, the union leaders pledged to stand strong in their meeting scheduled with Prime Minister Barrow for 10 a.m. on Friday, February 1st.
Individuals in the crowd were far more in touch with reality than the presenters on stage. While they were all committed to receiving a salary adjustment, most of them agreed that requesting a thirty percent increase is unreasonable. However, they are driven by the belief that Government has millions of dollars available for additional spending due to the success of the Superbond restructuring process. That idea is false but the union leaders have continued to share it. Castellanos continues to say, “Savings on the Superbond are $22 million in 2012 and $66 million in 2013, and for the next four years.” Castellanos and the other union leaders need to explain to their membership that those figures represent relief and not savings.

The union leaders speak of acting in good faith but attempted to shut schools down only three months after Government approved the majority of their 23 proposals. Those include increases in allowances for cashiers, revenue allowance per month, housing and rent allowance, general allowance, hazardous allowance, travelling allowance, motor vehicle allowance, responsibility allowance, commuting allowances, hardship allowances, public sector modernization, a review of regulations, an audit of public sector and the establishment of a teacher training subsidy.

Government is able to find the funds needed to grant the unions’ request. This can be done by increasing the General Sales Tax; lowering the threshold for income tax earnings; discontinuing the food subsidy and conditional cash transfer programs and cancelling revenue based infrastructure projects. The unions seem willing to let these happen.