By Alexis R. Milan
Prime Minister Dean Barrow expressed his displeasure with comments from the Belize Communications Workers Union (BCWU) in regard to the Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) settlement, saying he felt the accusations levied against him were derogatory and he was insulted to be compared to former Prime Minister Said Musa.
Barrow called the Union’s suggestion that his government handled the BTL settlement in similar fashion to the last People’s United Party (PUP) government’s handling of BTL “outrageously derogatory.” He said his government has settled the claims and cannot, in any way, be compared to the “sordid” way in which the PUP presided over that matter.
Barrow also defended the BTL Acquisition Settlement Act, passed in the House of Representatives several weeks ago. The Bill has been criticized by the unions and the private sector as being open-ended and, in essence, being a blank cheque for the government.
Barrow said he doesn’t understand what the critics mean by “open-ended” and said the Bill simply allows for the government to pay the difference of the initial $162 million settlement if an international arbitration tribunal decides that the BTL shares are worth more than the $1.44 that GOB has estimated.
According to the BCWU, however, the latest chapter in the BTL saga is deja-vu and they listed the similarities between this government and the last: secret meetings involving only two or three people on GOB’s behalf; total secrecy of meetings; indifference to employees who have a vested interest in the company; the high cost of the settlement, plus the running $162 price tag; the rush to pass the legislation and the intentional refusal to extend courtesy to the union for consultation.
The Union even said there is no difference between the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the PUP adding that, “The company executives have not acted in good faith towards the Union’s executive because they never advise and consult us on matters that affect our members and other employees in our bargaining unit. There is a weird feeling that this is 2005 all over with a little more sophistication.”