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Government and joint unions say progress made on increment restoration, but final decisions next week

Posted: Friday, March 3, 2023. 10:06 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Ever so slowly, the Government of Belize appears to be coming around to the idea of restoring frozen increments to public officers and teachers at the very start of the forthcoming fiscal year, which would have to be budgeted for.

Following meetings today in Belize City, member of the Government’s negotiating team and Minister of Education Francis Fonseca detailed that based on additional information about how waiting to restore the increments would further impact public officers, Cabinet would make a final decision following its meeting next week: “Today they presented us with some additional information, which I think provided some context for a better understanding of how perhaps some public officers could be negatively impacted by a later start date, so there could be some discrimination if you like. So that additional information I think will help us to go back to Cabinet. We’ve undertaken to take that additional information back to Cabinet and to make the case for perhaps moving it forward to April first, so we will do that on Tuesday in Cabinet, and a final decision will be made by the Cabinet on that issue.”

The Government, according to Fonseca, has had to rule out restoring increments frozen over the past two years, at least at this time: “We also, of course, they’ve talked about, you know, the two lost increments that they have suffered. And we have said to them that obviously, that’s not something we can do this fiscal year. We’re prepared to continue having a discussion with them about how that can be looked at in the future. So that’s going to be an ongoing discussion in terms of those two lost increments.”

Despite the Government offering to unfreeze increments in September and then July, the unions have not budged and according to Public Service Union (PSU) President Dean Flowers, will not budge: “Our membership gave us a mandate. You know that mandate. We have presented that to the government. We have not moved from that position, so Cabinet will now need to make a decision, prior to the reading of the budget on Tuesday, and get back to us before going to the House on Friday. So that’s one progress, or what we consider progress.”

Referring obliquely to Financial Secretary Joseph Waight, Flowers added that it is up to the Government to ensure it has budgeted for the restoration of this year’s increments: “…in terms of the government’s projection on the revenue side to be able to match the increments, I don’t know if they did an analysis in terms of when there would be a higher inflow of revenues to be able to accommodate that increase versus the proposed date that we’re suggesting. I don’t know. That is not my responsibility. I think we’re paying somebody for the past ten years over a hundred thousand dollars to do that. So it’s for him to do those tweaking if it’s necessary. In my humble opinion, I don’t think there’ll be much tweaking that would be necessary.”

And as Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) President Senator Elena Smith reminded: “Our people have already worked for those increments. They were taken away from them. They have been appraised throughout all of these years, you know, since they freeze, so there’s no additional thing to do in terms of just unfreezing.” She stated that the issue of increments has not been linked to any other issue including pension reform.


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