I wondered aloud when I wrote that article a couple weeks ago. I stated near the end that what came out of that meeting would say much about the calibre of the Prime Minister and on the path of the nation in the months ahead.
I’m going to plead the Fifth on the calibre thing at this point, though I will bow my head respectfully and say in a hushed stage whisper – the PM is a Master.
What exactly happened here? I have no idea, though I can speculate. I’m pretty sure the teachers and public officers also have no idea. The picture I’m getting is that they’re not sure if they should be elated or dejected, comforted or discontent, happy or sad.
As I see it, and I’m sure the thousands who marched and the thousands who were afraid to saw it, there was a position of strength demonstrated out there on that Tuesday.
The teachers and public officers had a firm stance, and the will and power to move mountains. That was what went into that meeting on Friday in the hands of those union leaders on the negotiating team.
What came out? Well, nobody’s exactly sure what that is.
Right after that meeting, all smiles, BNTU President Luke Palacio stated: “We have ensured now that there is going to be a mechanism in place that there is a salary adjustment—it may not necessarily be at the quantum that we had originally requested, but all indications are that it would be either close to that, but definitely each year, we should be able to see some adjustment in our salary.” (Channel 7, February 4, 2013)
So that’s a good thing, right? Very positive news of a definite salary adjustment, a sure thing! Right?
But just days after that Prime Minister Barrow had a different take on things. In an appearance on Love FM on February 6, 2012, the leader of the nation stated, “What I offered was this: There can be no salary increases this year, but there can be the possibility of salary increases next fiscal year which will be 2014/2015 and for each of the succeeding two years thereafter.”
In other words – we don’t have the money this year, so we can’t pay. If we have the money next year, then we will pay. In other words, if they don’t have the money next year, they won’t pay. End of story.
So my take is this – from a position of strength when they marched in force, the new position for teachers and public officers is this. There will be no salary adjustment this year. There will only be a salary adjustment next year if there is growth of government recurrent revenues. And if there is growth, the union’s ceiling will be 10%.
But if there is no growth, the union’s take will be nothing.
Let’s be real here. Teachers and public officers are being asked to settle for a promise. Only a promise, nothing more! And that promise is premised on unstable factors a year in the future. And that promise is being given by a man who has made such promises before.
In his Independence Day address to the Nation in 2011, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said of BEL – “Of course, those sharp practices have also been stopped by the new, Belizean-owned BEL.
“And that is why there will be no hike in your electricity bills. Not now, not ever – under this administration.”
So how’s that promise working out?!