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Oct 27, 2016

Hands Off The Strike Fund!

Luke Palacio

The Strike Fund – it has become the latest tug-of-war between the Ministry of Education and the Belize National Teachers’ Union. The Union has maintained that its Fund is established solely for actions undertaken by the Union – from strikes, to demonstrations and other related activities. Now, the Ministry is proposing that the monies therein be used to pay teachers who went on strike, who will see their salaries deducted in November. It has even pronounced willingness to handle the deductions in instalments. But the Union is not backing down and insists that it will not sacrifice the Fund, which isn’t exactly a horn of plenty. Palacio also responded to the unearthing of a resolution that proposed – but was not put into law – to redefine uses of the Strike Fund.

 

Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.

“The Minister does not run the B.N.T.U.; the Minister cannot interpret the B.N.T.U. Constitution how he feels and when he sees it fit. The B.N.T.U. Constitution clearly states that the Strike Fund is to be used for mobilization. In the convention in Orange Walk, a resolution was passed, and the resolution reads that B.N.T.U. makes an effort to redefine the use of the Strike Fund to cover for salaries when teachers would go on strike. Redefining does not mean that you are going to change it to do what the Minister has interpreted it to mean. The Strike Fund for the B.N.T.U. is part of the dues that our members pay. We pay one dollar a month toward the Strike Fund – it is not the entire twenty dollars or eighteen dollars that the teachers pay go towards the Strike Fund – it’s only a dollar per month. So the build-up that we have had in our Strike Fund to carry out these things have been built up over many, many years. No doubt, the strategy that the Minister is trying to propose or implement, is he wants us to break that Strike Fund, so that we cannot mobilize, and that is the furthest thing that we are prepared to do at this time. The Strike Fund is – the numbers, the amount would fluctuate. Depending on what actions we would take during a particular year, that Strike Fund varies. And again, it is not a Fund that was built up in one year; so that to say to you that we have in that Fund sufficient money to even pay, or start thinking about paying teachers who were on strike, that Fund would never suffice. And that is why I said that the strategy that the Minister is trying to use – because when you look at the amount of monies they are preparing to withhold, that is in the millions of dollars; our Strike Fund is far, far below that. So no way. Even if the Government in his proposal is saying that they would subsidize the payments, the difference, and that B.N.T.U. would pay back the Government, that is what his intention is.”

 

Because the Fund is strictly used for the Union’s actions, Palacio says opponents cannot accuse them of being paid through other sources to mobilize.

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