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Jan 31, 2005

Teachers continue to strike

Story PictureSchools across the country will remain closed on Tuesday as the nation’s teachers continue their strike. After exhaustive meetings over the weekend with no resolution of the impasse between government and the Belize National Teacher Union, president of the BNTU Anthony Fuentes says educators have decided to remain off the job pending further discussions aimed at breaking the stalemate. Fuentes told News 5′s Patrick Jones that with the support of the community, the teachers will stay the course until their demands are met.

Anthony Fuentes, President, Belize National Teachers Union
?At a council of management meeting held on Saturday whereby all ten branches of our union were present, we?ve decided that the strike action will continue.?

Patrick Jones
?How long will the strike action continue??

Anthony Fuentes
?Well, we will continue as long as our demands are met by the government.?

Patrick Jones
?And those demands, do you think that you are getting cooperation??

Anthony Fuentes
?Well, we mentioned three major things: First the issue of reform, the issue of taxation and the issue of our third salary increase which is due April first. For the reform we have a draft, we have been working closely with our other social partners and we have a draft of that reform right now. Hopefully it will go to our legislators who will then implement it so that in the next two, three, four, five years from now we will not be in this situation where we are today.?

Patrick Jones
?And the other two point so far as the taxes and your increase, what?s the situation??

Anthony Fuentes
?On the issue of taxation we will be meeting shortly. The National Trade Union Congress of Belize will be meeting shortly. From our perspective we don?t believe that government should increase taxes. Have the issue of taxation some taxes that are due to government, some revenue, for example the sixteen million dollars for the land tax is due. We have the eight million dollars for income tax. We believe that government needs to collect its taxes that are due out there. On the issue of our third salary increase we maintain that we want and deserve our eight and five percent and nothing less.?

Patrick Jones
?On the issues of the strike Mr. Fuentes, how much longer can we continue to punish our students??

Anthony Fuentes
?Every time they mention about the children but they fail to put as part of the equation the teachers. If the teachers are not satisfied then how will they do a proper job in classroom? It?s not that we are begging for a salary increase. We signed a contract with the government and they should honour that contract. We also have the children at heart. Once government deals with this particular problem and find a solution, then we are prepared to ask our teachers to go back into the classrooms. Our teachers are saying this is one time they will not back off from this strike action and they are proving it daily. They are making that sacrifice to show government that as a union, we are serious about our demands.?

Patrick Jones
?Mr. Fuentes, I have a daughter who has CXC exams coming up. What can you say to myself and other parents who have children expecting CXC, which will go off as planned. What can you say to us to allay our fears that our children might not be successful because you are on strike. ?

Anthony Fuentes
?Well our teachers said that once they go back into the classrooms they are prepared to do extra classes for the students to make up for the time lost.?

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