Outgoing President issues warning on interference as B.N.T.U. opens convention
The Belize National Teachers’ Union Annual Convention began today at Escuela Mexico in San Roman. But on Thursday, stakes are high with the election of a majority of its National Executive. The Union is electing a new president to succeed the tried and tested Luke Palacio as well as a first vice-president, secretary and treasurer. The B.N.T.U. claims it is under assault from the Government, who is not in a mood to forgive and forget last year’s national strike that saw it capitulate on several major issues. Today, the Union hoped to rally its members to resist attempts to infiltrate and usurp its power and position for political gain. Aaron Humes reports from San Roman.
Aaron Humes Reporting:
At his last convention as National President of the Belize National Teachers’ Union, Luke Palacio opened with a tribute to the strength of unity and his Union.
Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.
“And I begin by extending gratitude to every single one of you who have been there with me for these past six years. And for those of you who may be despairing: Luke Palacio is going nowhere; Luke Palacio is here to stay with the B.N.T.U. and that message must go loud and clear to this nation! (Applause) Brothers and Sisters, our union song says it well: “When the Union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run/there can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun.” So we must not feel powerless; we must never feel powerless, because we have a Union that is there standing up, guiding us, defending us, and you are part of that great organization.”
It’s an organization that has won congratulations for a brave and bold stance against the Government of Belize, a stance that has also led to condemnation in some quarters. But in expanding on the chosen theme for this year’s convention – “B.N.T.U.: Advocating for a Better Belize by Defending Collective Bargaining and Freedom of Association, retired teacher, union leader and guest speaker David Acosta said it was all worth it.
David Acosta, Guest Speaker
“In October of 2016, you engaged in genuine advocacy, when you not only denounced Government’s refusal to adhere to your salary adjustment as it pertained of the last tranche of the increase; but also denounced the rampant corruption that was eating away at our social and moral fabric, and advocated for change and better governance with transparency and accountability. Belize owes you for all what was achieved and in understanding your struggle for betterment, Belize had your back.”
And Palacio made it clear that even if he is not at the helm, its advocacy will continue in defiance of attempts at union-busting and naked political interference:
“Our union song tells us, “We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn/that our Union makes us strong.” Those are no idle words, my brothers and sisters, because as we speak at this convention, there are attempts from those in power to try and destroy this Union, and we are calling on you today to stand strong – we are going to break their haughty power, because our Union makes us strong! (Applause) We here, yesterday, for the first time as far as I can recall – we had to have a special Council meeting here in Corozal, because of this attempt at political interference. And your Council members sat down and deliberated, and yes, we are very much concerned. We are very much concerned because of the gains we’ve made over these many years. A Government that seems hell-bent to remain in power at any cost, is now trying to derail our process. And we must not allow it.”
In the end, said Acosta, the benefit is a Belize that is truly equal.
“We need a Belize where there is equity and equality; a Belize where everybody has the ability to provide for his or her family; a Belize where everybody is treated equally, a Belize where all will feel as normal Belizeans. The gap between those that have and those that do not have has widened enormously over the last fifteen years; we too deserve our fair share of the economic pie. It cannot be possible that in a country of approximately three hundred and fifty thousand people and blessed with untold natural wealth, [that] almost half of our population live in poverty, and a great number of them in dire poverty. This is the mother of all travesties, and is utterly unacceptable.”
Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.
The business session of the meeting took place in the early afternoon with reports from national and branch leaders, followed by a relaxing trip to the Corozal Free Zone. The convention resumes on Thursday morning at nine and we will have full coverage in the evening newscast.