By Benjamin Flowers: Last week documents surfaced showing that the Government of Belize (GOB) contracted two workers, one of whom is a relative of Prime Minister John Briceno, and the Public Service Union (PSU) has condemned the hirings for several reasons.
The documents showed that GOB contracted Graciana Briceno-Nah, as an Executive Assistant to the Prime Minister at a salary of $40,000 per annum, for a two-year period with effect from November 12, 2020, the day after the General Elections, to November 13, 2022. There was also an Angles Itzab, contracted for a two years period from November 24, 2020, to November 23, 2022, as Executive Assistant to the Cabinet Secretary, at a salary of $39,600 per month. Both new hires also received an incentive allowance of $300 per month.
PSU President Gerald Henry, took issue with the fact that the hirings were done in spite of a moratorium on hiring new government workers. Henry also stressed that incentive allowance is something given to a public officer who is asked to perform duties outside of their normal job description, as opposed to being granted at the onset of hiring and is normally only given as a temporary measure.
“I would not have the slightest idea what an executive assistant would do. Many of these posts that are created…by successive administrations, and we don’t have the slightest idea as to what their functions are,” Henry said.
He noted that just those two hires are valued at over $173,000 for the life of their contracts, when the allowances are taken into account, at a time when GOB is adamant about cutting the salaries of public officers to lower its expenditures.
“It’s hard for us as the leaders of the union to even try to get public officers to accept the 10 percent cut based on the actions that are being done by the government. How can you say that you have a bloated wage bill, but then you’re adding more to the wage bill?” Henry added.
The PSU as a member of the Joint Unions Negotiating Team, remains on strike, despite a warning from GOB that their salaries will be cut for doing so after May 15. We will be following their activities in the coming week.