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Jan 25, 2005

Strike continues as talks collapse

Story PictureTheir meeting started at ten this morning in the cabinet room in Belmopan but it was not until three this afternoon that union representatives and the Prime Minister parted ways, their meeting ending in deadlock. Throughout the day, the word out of Belmopan was not good. Government sources indicate that the Prime Minister “had nothing to offer” and “his back was against the wall” so there could be no compromise. But the unions had already issued an ultimatum to GOB that they would stay out of the classrooms until their demands were met, so there was little doubt that when the leaders of the Trade Union Congress and the National Teachers Union met with their members there would be any change in position. Late this evening the union reps were still meeting with their members in Belmopan but at a pre-scheduled meeting at BNTU headquarters in Belize City, members were informed that the discussions with the Prime Minister were “negative” and little ground was gained. News 5 understands that there were approximately twenty people in the cabinet room, including general managers of schools such as Clement Wade and Brenda Armstrong and the unions were in full force with NTUCB General Secretary George Frazer, PSU President Dylan Reneau, Belize Communication Workers Union President Paul Perriott, Public Service Senior Managers Association’s Zenaida Moya, and Mark Butler of the Belize Energy Workers Union. Sources indicate that the unions had made a counter offer to government’s proposal of staggering the pay increases over three years to a two year arrangement with half this year and half next year. But government did not budge from its three-year plan. In a press release issued late this evening, Government announced that it would appoint a five-member team, three from the NTUCB and two representatives of the business community, to finalize a list of financial reform suggestions made by the Trade Union Congress. As to the pay increases, the release indicates that GOB made some concessions by offering three percent for junior officers and two percent to senior officers from April of this year, the same formula for 2006 and in 2007, the final two percent and one percent for junior and senior officers respectively. But it would seem this did not sit well with the unions as both sides continued to buck heads until just after three this afternoon. In response to Belmopan’s stand, the majority of those in attendance at the Belize City BNTU meeting, which numbered approximately two hundred and fifty teachers, recommended that their strike continue. On a conciliatory note, the government’s press release does offer to “refrain from deducting salary from those teachers and public officers who participated in the strike action over the last four working days.” But teachers in Belize City tonight made it clear that if need be, they would explore other income generating measures to make up for the loss of pay for however long they remain on strike. As for rumours of an impending strike by the Fuel Haulers Association of Belize, this morning, President of the Association, Nolberto Rancharan, informed News 5 that the official position is that there is no intention at this time for the truckers to strike. However, News 5 could not confirm or dismiss the rumours of further strike action by workers at Belize’s utilities companies.

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