The Association of Public Service Senior Managers (APSSM) and the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) have agreed with the Deputy Prime Minister’s (DPM) Hon. Cordel Hyde’s recent comment that the Chief Executive Officers’ exemption from the 10 percent salary cut is unjustified and at the very least should be looked at once more by Cabinet.
Hyde, during his interview on 7 News‘ season finale of “Uncut”, told host Jules Vasquez, “We can’t justify that. Cabinet will have to look at that and deal with that. We have to share the pain; we all have to share in the pain. I will forcefully fight, we can’t have an exception.”
Responding to those comments, APSSM President Chief Magistrate Sharon Frazer and BNTU President Senator Elena Smith told the Reporter that they share the same sentiments as the DPM since it was never agreed that there would have been an exception. Frazer and Smith reaffirmed the understanding that the austerity measures implemented by the Briceño Administration last month should be across the board.
“I believe that they are supposed to do their share as well. They can’t say that that is what they are used to because they were never there before to be making that so I believe that it is only fair. … That 10% cut in salary assigned to CEOs is to show that we are all making the same level of sacrifice,” Frazer told the Reporter on Thursday.
While Frazer admitted that the topic of the CEO’s salary was never directly addressed during the negotiations there seems to have been a mutual understanding that everyone would have made the same sacrifice and that the previous austerity measures implemented by the Barrow administration, last year, would have been carried over.
Senator Smith, who said that Hyde is absolutely right and that they cannot justify the move to exempt CEOs, said: “Their reason for cutting our salaries was because ‘things’ were bad and ‘we must all sacrifice.’ Why is it now that some are more deserving than us? Why are they more equal?”
Hyde, who was at the negotiation table with the unions a couple of months ago, confirmed that his government gave its firm commitment to the unions and the people of Belize that they would all make the same sacrifice, without any exemptions. Hyde had also claimed that while he will be bringing up the matter to his colleagues in Cabinet, he expects that the CEOs may oppose on the grounds that they have not received a pay raise in years.
In response to that comment, however, Smith stated, “If they haven’t gotten a pay raise in years, how many of them have been in that position for years? Some may have been out of government for years but does that mean that they must, now, make up for those years their party was in opposition? How many years have teachers and public officers not gotten a raise? How can those CEO’s not be able to live on their salaries when they get two times or three times or even more than some of us get? So should our people starve to death so CEOs can live?”
Last week a leaked letter from Cabinet Secretary Stuart Leslie had informed the CEOs that their salaries would remain untouched. In defense, Leslie explained to the Reporter that the CEO’s salary had been accidentally cut in June of last month and that they were being reimbursed, as was entitled to them. Of note is that the CEO’s do not fall under either the Belize Constitution (Public Service Emoluments and Allowances) (Reduction) Regulations, 2021, or the Public Sector Emoluments and Allowances Act, 2021, which are the two-pieces of legislation that authorize the salary cuts. They, instead, are on contract; therefore, the terms of their employment requires mutual agreement between the parties.