UDP’s $8.7 Million dollar gift to PSU and BNTU Print E-mail
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Thursday, 11 April 2013 00:00

Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. Dean BarrowThe Unions representing the Public Service and the Teachers are at this point looking for a salary increase from the government representing 5% of their salary. While it is expected that unions make such requests for the greater good of the general membership it would appear that negotiating on collective bargaining agreements are all that the unions focus on when in reality there is much from within that they can do to help their membership.

This takes us to the BTL Shares that the UDP government under the leadership of the then Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Manuel Esquivel gave to the unions back in 1995. At the time PM Esquivel handed over 480,000 B shares to the unions and they would later receive 180,000 C shares when Michael Ashcroft offered a script divided shares in lieu of dividends. Those shares were given to the unions at the time because the government could not afford to give a salary increase and the unions had accepted it. As part of the agreement the Unions should have set up a trust fund which would make financing available to the members of the unions as loans to cover medical, housing, educational and other expenses. The unions never made up their mind during the Esquivel tenure and a PUP administration came in.

Like all things PUP, the shares were wrapped up in controversy on May 6th 2004, when BTL was being sold to Jeffrey Prosser,  the shares were converted to C shares. Those were handed over to the unions on May 7th, 2004 and that was as much that we ever heard of the shares. Nonetheless the shares had at the time accumulated $1.6 million dollars as a result of dividends from the shares. Those moneys and the shares at the time then were totally entrusted to the unions.

Fast forward to the present- the latest figures have it that the PSU and BNTU shares are 795,732 at an estimated value of $5 per share. That amounts to a handsome $3,978,660. Combine that with value of dividends which have been paid for the shares from the time of the issue which amounts to $4,747,088, then we have a gift that is valued at $8,725,748.

But what has become of that mounting treasure chest. Well the Guardian attempted to seek comment from the president of the Public Service Union, Mervin Blades, but we were unable to do so as he was out of office. It will nonetheless be interesting to find out exactly what has been done with the shares and the accumulation of money over the years from the dividends paid to it.