Negotiators offer unions Promissory Notes -Defacto Minister of Finance says not so!

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Christopher Coye

The Unions and the Government have been negotiating for weeks now trying to arrive at an amicable solution to an impasse brought on by a salary cut and increment freeze to public officers and teachers. The situation is so tense that the representative unions, the Public Service Union and the Belize National Teachers Union are on strike. The Association of Public Service Senior Managers on Wednesday May 5th also served notice that they will also be joining the other unions on strike. It’s a situation that has government negotiators engaged but based on comments that the Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance has made, it seems there is a disconnect between the offers being made to the unions and the extent to which Government will go to fulfill those offers.
One such example is a promissory note which has been offered to the unions to compensate them for money that they will lose as a result of the cut and increment freeze. While that offer is on the negotiating table, that is something that Minister Coye says is not going to happen. During an interview this week, the minister was expressed in saying that “A promissory note is debt, domestic debt. If government issues a promissory note it is domestic debt, so to say that you want a promissory note is simply to be adding more domestic debt to what government already owes, so I think cabinet will make a decision as to how it will carry discussions with the unions going forward.”
His position did not go without answer. The Unions were quick to snap back saying that the promissory note was in fact on the table. They added that there was a disconnect between the offer of promissory note and Coye’s position of not having any more public debt added to Government.
And while Coye waxes about the promissory note, it would appear that this is a public position he has to take. Knocking on the door are the holders of the Superbond who have said that they will not be entering into any negotiations with Belize unless there is an IMF arrangement.
If the unions get their promissory note, it is likely that the bondholders will also request payment as a payment is due next week.