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Nov 6, 2018

B.N.T.U. Ready to Demonstrate

On the eve of a planned demonstration, the Belize National Teachers’ Union is finalizing preparations to bus teachers from its ten branches countrywide to Belmopan on Wednesday. The announcement was made last week after the relationship between the B.N.T.U. and the Ministry of Education turned sour following the breakdown of negotiations.  The B.N.T.U.’s main points of contention are hardship and commuting allowances and Proposal Twenty-Two. These issues rattled the B.N.T.U.’s membership which has instructed its leadership to do what it takes to secure their needs. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

On Wednesday, teachers from across the country will descend on the capital City of Belmopan as they did earlier this year in March. Back then the mighty Belize National Teachers’ Union rallied against crime and on Wednesday, the union is calling on its entire membership to rally against what it describes as ‘blatant disrespect’ at the hands of the Minister of Education Patrick Faber.

 

Elena Smith

Senator Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U.

It is looking good. We have heard from all our ten branches. We do have teachers who will be coming out tomorrow in support. We understand based on feedback we have other groups who will be supporting us as well. I heard cane farmers will be coming out, we are not sure. We heard a call for stevedores to come out. We hope that is so. We are excited.

 

Teachers will assemble in front of the Belize Comprehensive High School before marching to the Belmopan Civic Center for the day’s programme. From there the teachers will gather in front of the National Assembly building near the Ministry of Education where they will remind the Education Minister why they decided to take this step:

 

Patrick Faber

Senator Elena Smith

“The overarching issue is the matter of our hardship school, not for our teachers to be getting any additional compensation because people are saying that we are fighting for more money. That is not so. So it is for us to look at the list of hardship schools and determining how they are categorized. The matter of Proposal Twenty-Two that the ministry has said that is off the table which we know that is not so and we want that to come. So the ministry in essence is refusing to meet with the bargaining agents for our teachers and instead of meeting with us the officials of the union they are asking principals and other members to send information to the district managers in terms of these hardship schools. So that is a contention. We feel that is union busting. As well as comments made by the minister in terms of unions in whole that he is threatening the very existence and the purpose of unions of this country. So we cannot sit idly by and allow for that to happen because we know fully well what unions, union members have done for this country and how important unions are for our workers. Added on to that is the matter of commuting allowance which the ministry has informed us that anything prior to last school year they would not be paying our teachers whatever they owed them. Addition to that, the matter of teachers getting their increments late. They have to be waiting three, four, six month before they get increments. Some of them are owed increments three, four years still. Those are the issues that we will be looking at for tomorrow.”

 

The B.N.T.U. announced its decision to demonstrate last week, and since then, according to Senator Smith, the teachers have been faced with intimidating tactics.

 

Senator Elena Smith

“If you have heard we have our teachers informing that some of them have been informed of a mandatory workshop for tomorrow which the ministry will be working. So we have some teachers who will be attending those workshops and those who won’t. We were also informed by our members that we have police officers visiting schools as we speak, checking with the principal what numbers of their teachers will be going to Belmopan and what bus company will be transporting them to Belmopan. So even the police is getting involved in a matter that they have no business in. So we can understand why some teachers might want to stay back. For those reasons, whatever number of teachers come out we will be satisfied because we know that they support our union.

 

And for the union, numbers do not matter; the objective is for the teachers is to do whatever it takes to be heard loud and clear.

 

Senator Elena Smith

“We don’t depend on what the media or the politicians or government say about numbers. We know our teachers and we know that they will come out. So whatever number of them come out, if it a thousand, if it five thousand we are satisfied with our support. We will ensure that this matter is resolved and whatever it is our members tell us that this is resolved, we will do that.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

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