No maritime and hardship allowances for island police
Monday, March 16th, 2015
For weeks, officers within the Belize Police Department on Ambergris Caye have been complaining about the government’s decision to cut their allowances. The cut came into effect on January 2015, three months after the government had announced an increase in the salary of public officers, including police officers. Affected officers on Ambergris Caye claim that with their current salary, they are hardly surviving on the island, living “hand to mouth.” Not only will the cut in allowances make it difficult to send part of their earnings to their family members back home, but surviving on the island will be even more difficult now.
The issue is not only affecting officers on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, but many other public officers countrywide. However, because of the high cost of living on the islands, public officers who had been enjoying a few allowances to offset the expenses on the islands will be the most affected.
“Police officers here on the island are not happy. They took away our hardship allowance which was expected to rise from $75.00 to $300 from October of last year. We had no idea of this cut from our allowances until we went to the bank to get our salary. Nobody told us anything and it came as surprise to us. We were expecting the increase in allowance of up to $300 as was published in a memo effective October 2014. We only heard rumors that we might just get a small increase in the jungle and maritime allowance, but again nobody has told us anything. We understand that other public officers on the island are getting their allowances. But we cannot talk or do anything because we fall under essential service,” said an island officer, who asked to remain anonymous.
According to the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security, Retired Colonel George Lovell, the cut in allowances was as a result of amendments made to regularize the compendium of allowances to public officers. That regularization took place in January following a list of allowances that were approved in October of 2014 for the Belize Public Service by Ministry of the Public Service and the Ministry of Finance. “That circular that was sent out dated the 1st of October, and there is a revised edition that was done in January of 2015, and that compendium of allowances speaks to the allowances that public officers in general are entitled to. That was done as a result of a comprehensive consultation within the public service from across the entire ministry. That then speaks to the new allowances that were approved for the public officers and that is the basis under which allowances that people were probably once enjoying, that was not regularized, have now become regularized under this new compendium of allowances,’ said Lovell.
Because of the regularizing of the compendium of allowances, police officers are being affected. According to Lovell, under the system before the approved lists of regularized compendium of allowances, some officers were enjoy allowances for duties they once held. Once transferred from that duty, some officers were still receiving the allowances. He did say that under the new compendium of allowances, the hardship of public officers is one of the main issues considered. “The compendium of allowances speaks to precisely those issues for public officers who are experiencing hardship in areas where there is the need for additional allowances to offset high cost of living. The compendium of allowances is quite clear as to who is entitled to and who is not entitled to these allowances,” indicated Lovell.
Police officers on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker were receiving a hardship allowance of $75 per month in comparison to other public officers such as those in the Customs and Excise Department and Immigration Department that are getting between $300 to $350 per month. Several police officers on both islands confirmed that their hardship allowance was removed from their salaries. Police officers in San Pedro and Caye Caulker were also due an increase in the Jungle and Maritime allowance from $100 to $200 per month, however it has remained at $100.
Officers who feel that they were unfairly treated or not considered for the entitlement of the new compendium of allowances, are advised to follow the established protocol in place to make a formal request/complaint through their ministry. Lovell advised that those requests or complaints must be channeled through the department’s established chain of command. Lovell also added that it is the duty of commanding officers to look out after the welfare of each of its officers and to ensure that that they are fairly treated in an effort to get better productivity for the department.
Of interest to note is that the starting salary for a police officer in Belize ranges from between $900 to $1100 per month. In San Pedro and Caye Caulker, officers receive the same salary and the only additional income would be in the form of allowances from within the same department.
Please help support Local Journalism in Belize
For the first time in the history of the island's community newspaper, The San Pedro Sun is appealing to their thousands of readers to help support the paper during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 1991 we have tirelessly provided vital local and national news. Now, more than ever, our community depends on us for trustworthy reporting, but our hard work comes with a cost. We need your support to keep delivering the news you rely on each and every day. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Please support us by making a contribution.Click to Donate