Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2022. 8:40 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: In the words of President of the Public Service Union (PSU) Dean Flowers, there is “discontent” in the ranks of the Public Service following a decision to double living allowances for chief executive officers.
And he expects there will be a mandate from public officers for the return of their frozen increments, now that the government appears to have the money to increase these allowances.
Flowers pointed out that these officers came in with the Briceño administration and were not part of the CEO group that had agreed in April of 2020, in the teeth of the COVID-19 pandemic, to give up half their established allowances while public officers had increments frozen; the Briceño administration extended those measures and “strong-armed,” in Flowers’ words, a further ten percent pay cut, since returned as of July 2022.
“Not a single one of them made absolutely any sacrifice to the economic recovery of this country,” Flowers said of the CEO caucus, comparing them to the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm who “live high on the hog” and accusing the Prime Minister of trying to deceive the public. The decision to give CEOs more was “insulting and unacceptable,” Flowers said, when there are public officers who make less than 31 thousand per year, not counting the CEOs’ other established allowances.
Therefore, Flowers said, “If it is that CEOs can get back what was never taken from them, then the Public Service Union of Belize on behalf of public officers must, must, demand the immediate unfreezing of our increments, because that was our sacrifice. That was our sacrifice.”
Thus, the PSU Council of Management has agreed to go to public officers for a mandate to demand of Government that frozen increments be returned immediately, or by the latest with the Budget in March, because “it was on our backs that they were able to create fiscal space to be able to return to the House on numerous occasions for [supplementaries] for an unbalanced Budget,” also mentioning tax breaks for private sector business and handouts to cronies while public officers are pushed to the brink.
Flowers said at least two CEOs had threatened to resign last year if their salaries were not reinstated; he was not aware, he said, of how the current increase was negotiated. He added that the Union’s problem with the CEO caucus is not personal, but with the “inequality of how they are treated versus the public officers that actually do the work are treated.”
As to comparisons between what would be paid to public officers in returned increments versus the amount paid to CEOs for allowances, Flowers said all 15 thousand public officers were affected by the freezing of increments, so naturally, the money to be returned is big; but the increased allowances are simply not justifiable considering the already high salaries and allowances they have.
And ordinary Belizeans should be outraged as well, he continued, because we are paying for it: “You are paying for CEOs to continue to earn these ridiculous sums of money, and to continue to be given these ridiculous allowances all at your expense. So, this isn’t just a Public Service Union problem, this is a Belizean citizens’ problem…the manner in which I am upset should be the way you are upset because that is the abuse that is being imposed on you as well, as a citizen of this country.”
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