BNTU versus GOB

The negotiation impasse over salary adjustment between the Government of Belize and the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) is leading to a massive showdown next Tuesday, when teachers plan to converge on Belmopan for a national day of protest.
The unions are seeking a 30 percent salary adjustment over a three-year period, but the government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow is insisting that government cannot find the money for the salary adjustment at this time.
Although the BNTU is leading the charge against the government’s refusal to consider a salary adjustment. The other unions, under the umbrella of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, (NTUCB), are also joining in solidarity with the BNTU, the president of the NTUCB, Dylan Reneau told The Reporter on Thursday.
“All the other unions are in support of the protest action and will send representatives to Belmopan on Tuesday,” Reneau said.
The other unions include the Public Service Union, (PSU) the Association of Public Service Senior Management (APSSM), the Belize Communications Workers Union, the General Workers Union, and the Christian Workers Union.
The BNTU, PSU and APSSM have been locked in years of unfruitful negotiation with the government over a salary adjustment and other issues.
PSU president Marvin Blades told reporters on Thursday that his union will be at Tuesday’s protest as a part of the demonstration.
“In each of our branches a couple of our members will be out there. We are not at strike action as yet, but we are part of the demonstration,” Blades said.
Jose Castellanos, the incoming president of the APSSM, said that government is over estimating its figures, when it said that the salary adjustment will cost government something in the range of $300 million over the three-year period.
According to Castellanos, the unions figures are between the ranges of $25-30 million for this year.
Next year, he estimates that the cost of the adjustment will cost government between $50-60 million and in the third year between $75-90 million.
During the last round of negotiations earlier this month, Castellanos said government simple said “no” to everything.
We asked for indicators, they said “no”. But this salary adjustment does not mean an increase in taxes, he said. “We are projecting that there will be a surplus next year.
Castellanos said that he was heartened to hear Prime Minister Barrow say Wednesday that if there is a surplus government is prepared to consider the salary adjustment based on that.
“If we had been made that offer during our last meeting in January, we would not be here today,” Castellanos said.
He noted that the economy grew by 7% last year. The economic growth and the projected savings from the renegotiated super bond for this year, according to the Prime Minister, will amount to $66 millions in savings.
“We have no problem with linking the salary adjustment to the surplus. Going into strike is a no-win situation for everyone,” Castellanos offered.
The BNTU president, Luke Palacio, said that PM Barrow has indicated that he would like to meet with the union leaders.
Palacio said that in June 9, 2012, they wrote to the PM and it was at that time that the government sent three ministers: the Minister of Labour, the Minister of the Pubic Service, and the Minister of Education, to negotiate with the unions, replacing the CEO’s who were doing the negotiating on GOB’s behalf.
Palacio said that the lead minister, Education Minister Patrick Faber, had said “no” to the salary adjustment. So it was at that time that we decided to put back everything on the table.
“We stood our ground … we had to get into this mode … so that we could bring down some kind of pressure on the government for this disrespect to the unions,” Palacio disclosed.
The unions will meet with the prime minister after the demonstration, Palacio said. “We are prepared to sit down and negotiate, because we have our counter proposals to put forward.”

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