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Prime Minister addresses union negotiations: “We do respect the unions”

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Posted: Thursday, May 6, 2021. 8:32 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: He may not be there in person, but Prime Minister John Briceño is keeping an eye on the ongoing negotiations led by his deputy Cordel Hyde.

Today, he told reporters that he is pleased by the dialogue in the meeting but less so with the consultations the unions undertake thereafter.

“The meetings are very cordial, they’re very respectful, everybody is putting their different perspectives as to what it is that they wish. Our disappointment is that, when we finish the meetings, we feel that we have an agreement, but whenever they go to the membership, or at least the group that participates the meetings, probably the ones that are more worked up or not willing to settle for what they have been asking and we have been giving them.”

He added that “We do respect the unions, we respect their right to work.” But they cannot stand in the way of critical services such as health and education, and the Government is legally and morally obligated to provide such services.

As for the strike’s impact, Briceño suggested there wasn’t much of one so far: “Fortunately, it seems that it is not having a major impact. I believe that generally Belizeans understand what we are doing: Belizeans understand that we are not acting out of malice; Belizeans understand that there is a financial crisis; Belizeans understand that many of them, thousands of them, lost their jobs. Fortunately, the Public Service, including the teachers, they kept their jobs, they’ve been getting their salaries, but it has gotten to a point where we just don’t have the money. We wish that we could have been paying them and giving them even more and helping those who don’t have a job, but the truth is that we don’t have the money.”

The P.M. said borrowing such as that done by the previous administration cannot be continued, and even with the salary cut and increment freeze, the Government is still short of $100 million to pay salaries, and it will not countenance hyperinflation, devaluation, or, left unsaid, retrenchment.

It is now a matter, he concluded, of getting the unions to understand that, and to be reassured that in another two years, Belize’s economy will hopefully rebound to the point the lost salary and increments can be replaced and other benefits under the party’s #planBelize implemented.

“We meant it when we said we want a Government where ‘everybody fi win,” Briceño said.

Needless to say, the unions have a different view and we will share that in a later story.

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