A Reward for Doing Nothing? Union Says Money Could Have Been Used Elsewhere
According to Palacio, government is being crafty with its description of the payout. That million dollar bonus flies in the face of government’s proposed strictness at the start of the fiscal year. The B.N.T.U. says that the monies could have been used to repair classrooms and school buildings that were damaged during Hurricane Earl.
Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.
“They try to use terms such as it is not compensation but it’s an honorarium. We believe, our position is, was, and continues to be that you are paying teachers who did not go on strike because you want to weaken the B.N.T.U. The fact of the matter is that all teachers were paid. Those teachers who did not go on strike, for whatever reason, were also paid and they were not working at school because most of those schools were closed and if they were open, very, very few children or students were at school. So what are we saying now? We’re going to pay people for doing nothing, simply because you want the B.N.T.U. to look bad. The Minister of Education consistently says that he is not about punishing the B.N.T.U. but that is exactly what he is doing, trying to punish the B.N.T.U. for standing up for this country, for showing Belize that we as the B.N.T.U. were prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that we curb the acts that we saw happening in our country that were about to bring some serious negative impacts on this country.”
“How does this stand with the unions, in light of the fact that the budget was recently passed, it’s one of austerity and belt-tightening and what have you, but yet a million dollars has been earmarked for this expressed purpose of compensating, if I may, these teachers who remained in the classroom during the eleven-day strike?”
“Well our press release speaks to it specifically, it says there, in these difficult times the government continues to squander public funds in an effort to buy public support and to keep our people subservient. Because if you are paying people not to go on strike, any union, any organization in this country that then decides that we are going to stand up for whatever we believe in and if it means that we must take industrial action, you become subservient because you will prefer not to go. You will prefer not to participate in such an activity because of a few dollars and then you sacrifice your dignity, your integrity and the meaning of your life. That is what this is telling us.”