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Sep 14, 2016

Government anticipates strike action by teachers – but is there anything to dispute?

Patrick Faber

Having made concessions on Tuesday for a Senate Select Investigation on Immigration; government has another hot potato in its hands.  That’s because the Belize National Teachers Union may be gearing-up to protest in the days ahead. For days, the branches of the B.N.T.U. have been meeting and on Thursday, they will formally announce their course of action. The union is dead set for teachers to receive the third tranche of three percent of their salary adjustment. That adjustment is retroactive to April first and was due in July.  According to Minister of Education Patrick Faber, the president of B.N.T.U. has written to Prime Minister Barrow, in the context of the Stand Up for Belize Campaign, seeking to have addressed a number of national issues.  PM Barrow, we understand, has since responded with a letter of his own addressing the union’s various concerns but there is another meeting set for later this week between the PM and the unions. As it relates to the matter of the delayed salary adjustment, Deputy Prime Minister Faber says it is the closest that the union can get to strike action since there really is not a labor dispute with government.

 

Patrick Faber, Deputy Prime Minister

“Yes indeed, the prime minister was written to and as we’ve always maintained, if you’ve heard me talk before on this issue, we thought that even the meetings held last week Thursday across the country by branches of the BNTU would have been premature because of course they had not gotten word back to the prime minister as to whether or not they would accept the deferral of the payment of the third tranche.  So we did feel that that was a bit premature.  Subsequent to that, I think it was on Friday, the three unions wrote to the prime minister indicating their individual positions, as you’ve pointed out, the senior public service managers indicated that they would accept the deferral.  The Public Service Union which is probably the largest of the three unions, in terms of membership, has indicated that they will accept the deferral as well and in fact, the BNTU pointed out that its membership would not accept the deferral.  On the same day, a letter was also sent to the prime minister indicating that, this is from the BNTU, and it referred to the Stand Up for Belize Campaign and in that campaign the president and the general secretary writes in this letter that it will be sustained and they give the prime minister a deadline to address certain issues which they claim are very important to them.  Those are some of the issues I want to deal with today.  We have been hearing in fact that there are plans to have a rally, to also possibly get to strike action which as I understand it should only come if there is some kind of labor dispute with the teachers.  And I was told of a flier, although I confess that I have not seen the flier, where the teachers have put out that says basically that this is not about the three percent, that it is about the other issues.  Well, the truth is that the closest that they can come to getting the issue of a labor dispute is that three percent, so if it is not about that three percent then certainly it’s not about labor it is about these other points that they have put in the Stand Up for Belize Campaign that they are saying that they are going to continue on.”

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