Friday, February 12, 2010

Belize Civil Service Unions threatening to strike!


The Belize government announced there is so far, a $60 million shortage of money for the 2010 budget due April 1st. The PM is looking for ways to plug the gap. This is roughly 10% of revenues expected for the year. The new budget comes effective April 1st.
In the meantime, teachers, civil servants and all those government workers are pressuring for salary increases, as this is the year of running out on their Umberella Union Collective bargaining agreement. The PM Barrow has said the money isn't there and he does not see how he can do it. The Unions are threatening industrial action ( strikes ) At the moment the UNIONS are trying to get government to the negotiating table.
We have suggested from the private sector that the government agree to the salary increases and whatever is more than we can afford as a country, that employees of the government then be RETRENCHED in the amount needed, to give the remaining government paid employees their salary increases.
Inflation over the past three years, the UNIONS are claiming has averaged 10% a year. The official inflation figure is less and some private sector people say it is more. The unions claim since three years ago, the cost of living has risen 30%.
The private sector would like to see the Government go to a ZERO BALANCE departmental budget model. Not keep running deficits through foreign loan borrowing.

A further cutting could be done among teachers. Much of the primary school and high school system in Belize, is joint Religious/private sector schools. Of which government traditionally contributes about 80% of teachers salaries and also something to school maintainance out of general funds. There is a wide gamut of contributions among religious schools. The Mennonite schools for instance are 100% supported and paid for out of their religious church membership in the form of fees and taxes self imposed. At the other extreme you have many religious schools, who are really private sector businesses, which provide teaching jobs for their owners. Some religious schools are financially supported, partially from foreign missions.
The suggestion is; that a percentage of the government contribution to religious owned schools, be cut, until whatever portion of the contribution of the problem with the 2010 budget shortfall needed by schools, be met by religious schools themselves, which have the moral responsibility like the Mennonites, to provide for their schools financially. Whether this is 10% or 20% cut of the government contribution to religious schools remains to be seen. It is time the private schools step up to the plate and help our country grow, by financing there own schools. 90% of the primary schools in the country are believed to be religious schools.

The goal is a more stable financial environment for our government managing capacity and a ZERO balance budget system of operations.

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