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Dec 16, 2016

Mediation ordered in BNTU case vs GOB

Eamon Courtenay

The Ministry of Education and the Belize National Teachers Union will enter into mediation in the days ahead, to resolve the standing issue of teachers salaries post the eleven-day strike back in October.  That’s what Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin has instructed.  The issue of salary deduction aside, there are a number of burning issues between both parties that should also be settled prior to the start of the second semester in January 2017.  Those matters include make up time that has been prescribed by the ministry and managing authorities in an effort to compensate for valuable teaching time that was lost to industrial action.  The B.N.T.U. remains steadfast that teachers should return to their respective classrooms on January ninth.  Meanwhile, managing authorities have sided with government and are calling for teachers to resume classes on January third.  It’s a difficult situation which leaves students hanging in the balance once again.  We begin tonight with the outcome of today’s court hearing where the B.N.T.U. is challenging the legality of government’s proposed salary deduction.

 

Eamon Courtenay, S.C., Attorney for BNTU

“There’s a very simple thing that has happened here, the teachers have been paid for the month of October.  There was a strike in October and the teachers have worked since then and you are entitled to be paid when you work.  When the teachers received their pay in October there was no condition, there was no question of them being called upon at some future date to make up any money that was not payable or anything like that.  So I don’t know why the government believes that the teachers or anybody else can work and not be paid.  Once they accept the principle that if you work you are to be paid that’s the end of it.  There reverse position that if you don’t work you are not to be paid is a common law position but the statutes, and by that I mean the Education Rules, speak to the contract with the teachers and there’s a very serious problem here and it is that the government is intervening in a place where it ought not to be intervening.  The teachers are employed by the management, Managing Authorities, and the discussion should be between the Managing Authorities and the teachers with respect to salaries, with respect to days of work, with respect to hours of work and that type of thing.  Unfortunately, with respect to the specific case, the government seems to be driving it and driving it in an inflexible way and that’s why we are where we are.  I hope that the mediation will be successful.”

 

Reporter

“When does the mediation start?”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Well it’s going to start as quickly as possible.  We have forty-five days within which to do it.”

 

Reporter

“Sir, did you say who requested mediation?”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Well the Chief Justice on the last occasion said that he is minded that this matter should go to mediation and that the parties should decide whether or not they are that way inclined and we wrote to the government and said that we are prepared to go to mediation and they agreed and so we were able to select a mediator.”

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