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Aug 19, 1998

B.N.T.U. says government has reneged on promises

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The Belize National Teachers’ Union has sent off a stern letter to Elodio Aragon, Minister of Education, and Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel, stating their concern with regard to a number of issues the union says are being acted upon without any kind of consultation with the B.N.T.U. The first has to do with a draft handbook on the policies and procedures of the new education rules. According to Raul Castillo, B.N.T.U.’s president, they have received news that in the next few days, Aragon will be signing into law the new rules, despite the fact that the minister has yet to make available to teachers a copy of the document for them to examine and make recommendations. Castillo, who called an emergency meeting this morning with presidents of B.N.T.U.’s ten branches, charges that the government has also been playing games with the unions and failing to issue promissory notes pledged to qualifying teachers and public officers and failed to complete the transfer of B.T.L. shares that was promised on November eighth, 1996.

Raul Castillo, President, B.N.T.U.

“Basically, we don’t really have a problem with the education rules, per say. What we are oppose to is the procedure that is now accompanying the conclusion of this process that has taken such a long time. We have for instance the issue of the Handbook which to date remains incomplete. Besides that, the minister himself, following consultations and during consultations, did promise teachers that he would make available to them for their scrutiny and recommendations for improvement. He also promised consultations with teachers on the issue of the handbook. This has not been done.

When the government decided not to honor the contract agreement on salaries with the unions, that having been reached in 1992, we entered in negotiations to see how best we can save a bad situation. We agreed on the eighth of November, 1996, to a package which included several salary adjustments: a lump sum payment for teachers who were employed at the time, a promissory note that was worth five percent of a teachers’ annual gross salary at the time. They also agreed to sign over four hundred and eighty thousand ordinary shares in B.T.L. to the unions so we could use dividends to set up projects to benefit members throughout the teaching profession and the public service. These have not been completed.

We cannot support the signature of the education rules into law until we are satisfied that the proper procedures have been followed. We have made an appeal to the Minister of Education to desist from signing these rules until he has met all requirements.”

At the conclusion of today’s meeting, the union representatives called on Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel to immediately implement the agreements reached in November, 1996 on salary adjustments. Esquivel was also urged to fulfill his government’s promise of providing housing for teachers and the construction of a B.N.T.U. headquarters building.

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