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Jan 24, 2013

Teachers and Public Servants to march against G.O.B.

There is a steely resolve tonight by the Belize National Teachers Union, the Public Service Union and the Association of Public Service Senior Managers, known as the Joint Unions Negotiating Team, to stage a national demonstration this Tuesday while Cabinet is meeting in Belmopan. The unions have not yet received the required permit for what is billed as a peaceful demonstration, but security forces are also getting ready for the five thousand teachers that are expected to descend on Independence Hill. After years of not been able to reach agreement on a salary adjustment of thirty percent staggered over a three year period,  the unions have decisively voted to take their plight to the seat of government. News Five’s Isani Cayetano spoke today with JNT leaders as they issued their respective bulletins calling on members to come out in solidarity in what is likely to be one of the largest demonstrations in recent times.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Belize National Teachers Union, arguably the most influential and structured body outside of the country’s major political outfits, is once again preparing to mobilize its membership for an all-out descent on Independence Hill.  The last demonstration staged by the union was in February 2010, when approximately two thousand teachers converged at the foot of the Assembly Building to protest the passage of the Education and Training Bill.  That was almost three years ago.  Since then the leadership of the B.N.T.U., as well as its cause for dispute, has changed.  Nonetheless, the fight for a long overdue salary adjustment, part of a Collective Bargaining Agreement, will once again see them on the frontline.

 

Luke Palacio

Luke Palacio, President, Belize National Teachers Union

“It is not only the teachers that are negotiating a salary adjustment along with the other proposals that we have, it is the three unions.  The Belize National Teachers Union, of course, being the most powerful, the most organized trade union in this country, met in special session and we agreed; our council voted that we are going to conduct a demonstration in Belmopan to show that we are dissatisfied with the disrespect that the government has shown to the three unions over this period time.”

 

The tripartite decision to picket outside of Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting is the result of failed negotiations between the unions and government.  Earlier this week Prime Minister Barrow went on record to state that his administration is unable to meet the demands of the unions in the upcoming fiscal year.  The picture that has subsequently been painted is that an additional three hundred million dollars would be tacked on to the existing wage bill in one disbursement.  That, according to the Joint Unions Negotiating Team, is simply a smokescreen.

 

Jose Castellanos

Jose Castellanos, President, Association of Public Service Senior Managers

“We don’t agree with that assessment.  Firstly, it’s thirty percent that we are asking for over a period of maybe three years.  So it would be ten percent, ten percent, ten percent.”

 

While the initial proposal is to stagger the payment over three years, at roughly a hundred million dollars annually, B.N.T.U. President Luke Palacio argues that the salary adjustment has more to do with the power of the dollar and not necessarily the quantum of the increase.

 

Luke Palacio

“The increase is not going to cost any three hundred and odd million dollars as they are saying.  The increase is, we are requesting a salary increase of about thirty percent so that we can bring back the purchasing power of our dollar.  Our dollar has lost its purchasing power by at least thirty-two percent, which means in common terms that our dollar right now is only worth about sixty-eight cents.”

 

Economics aside, the pay raise is only part of a twenty-three point list proffered to government, which includes allowances, salaries and other benefits for public officers and teachers.  Public officers, says Marvin Blades, are equally feeling the financial hardship.

 

Marvin Blades

Marvin Blades, President, Public Service Union

“We’ll definitely have our membership being out there to demonstrate because at the end of the day, and we want to dispel the notion that it’s only B.N.T.U., it’s the entire public sector unions, B.N.T.U., APSSM and P.S.U., because we are all feeling the same pinch.  We are all, the dollar has devalued as my brother has said and so the government saying that “no” and an infinite “no, no, no” is unacceptable by any standards to any one of the unions.”

 

Despite their firm position on the matter and the impasse that it has created, many are wondering whether Tuesday’s demonstration will only be that, a one day show of solidarity that will be forgotten in the days after.

 

Isani Cayetano

“To the naysayer, a demonstration is simply what it is, a demonstration, and everybody goes back to work the following day.  What is to happen if, at some point, the negotiations become fractured, or they’re not favorable to the three unions involved?  What do we expect?”

 

Luke Palacio

“Well again, we have now engaged our partners.  In fact, you notice we are here meeting at the National Trade Union Congress of Belize.  Brother Castellanos has indicated to you the support from the Association of Public Service Senior Managers.  We have been getting great support from other individuals and depending on the outcome of the demonstration on Tuesday and the meeting with the P.M., which we hope will follow, then we will again engage our affiliates and determine how we move from there.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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11 Responses for “Teachers and Public Servants to march against G.O.B.”

  1. northern star says:

    Perhaps the teachers should bear in mind that when they take time off during school hours to attend to union business it is the children that suffer, not the rest of us that has completed our learning already. The teachers now seem to be more interested in money and not the educational well-being of our children.

  2. it's just that simple says:

    time to get rid of the teachers!
    The gangs need a pay increase, somebody has to take the bullet.

    Enuf with this nonsense, the gangstas could fill those teaching positions, teach them kids some street skills and how to get jobs with the cartels.

    GOB has its priorities!
    Having a crooked government takes work.
    Corruption officers work long hours into the night, cheating the other guy and passing the savings on to you! There is a big future in having an ignorant violent citizenry, it pays big dividends for those who control it.

  3. Maverick says:

    I don’t get it.. Jose Castellanos is at work about 30% of the year under the guise of sick leave,and the rest of the time he does nothing while at work, ask anyone who know him. The PSU needs to start first to clean up the act of non-productive government workers, and next need to purge the useless deadweight then they can re-allocate the savings among those that really do work.

  4. Buju says:

    @ Maverick

    You hit the nail on the head!

    But on another note we would all want a raise but if we are renegotiating the superbond how could we now turn around and say that we have surplus because we are not paying and we can give a raise!
    BNTU lets be thoughtful and not stop being used as a political tool for the pup

  5. Storm says:

    Our overall inflation rate has been around 2 -2.5% for years, and it is projected to be that for the foreseeable future. There is no reasonable justification to give any public employee a windfall of 10% annual raises for three years.

    They don’t want GOB money, they want TAXPAYER money. GOB doesn’t have any money of its own.

    Beyond that, the comments of the others about teachers putting pursuit of a windfall over education are right on point. The union is ruining the teaching profession by gradually corrupting teacher ethics, so the children are no more than an after thought or an excuse to work little and get paid much. All I ever hear from BNTU spokespeople and leaders is “Give us more money,” not “help us educate.”

    The rest of Belizeans need to realize it is our children themselves who are the losers in this process, and if they lose good education, they are crippled for life in many ways. Maybe we need to counter-protest the teachers union.

  6. Buju says:

    @ STORM

    WELL SAID!

    The only people who will be loosing are the students and the only people gaining by this will be the opposition!

    Teachers we cant let ourselves be used as a political weapon.
    I AM SURE WE ARE BIGGER THAN THIS!!!!!!!!!

  7. sexy says:

    well well. if teachers want a raise in pay, then i hope they teach our children good, because where i live those teachers cant even teach the kids well. but to hit the children they are good for. i know of specific teachers who those this. and plus there is an individual who is presently teaching and i dont know if she have a qualification. she is from guatemala… and she not even cant speak the english language good. how she teach the kids??? she only like scold the poor kids when they (children) don’t do there work well.

    her name is Ms. Tzalam.

  8. Ram says:

    at least these people STILL HAS A JOB! lot of recent graduates out there looking for little chance.

    have the teachers take PSE and see how they score before talking about a raise. 20% of public officers does the work of all the rest.

  9. Dirty sugar!!!! says:

    Lets condem the teachers and Praise and Pay the Gang leaders!!!! Nice Belize this is what we are comming to!!! No wonder the Crime rate is as high as it is!!!!!

  10. asa says:

    yes it is easy to say both education officers ask teachers to have materials in class which comes out of the pockets of the teachers!! teachers have to raise funds, sell bbq and do things in school so they can maintain the school. if the need to paint classes teachers have to work for it and most of the times the money comes out of the teachers pockets. teachers have families and now with this tax teachers have to pay more tax thanks to Mr. Borrow!!

  11. luis says:

    Everybody is critcizing the Teachers and Public Servants but how about those contract Officers getting huge salaries including vehicles and benefits and what are they doing? NOTHING they do nothing cause it is only the carreer public officers that are doing the job. How about the vehicle crashed by the ministers brother? silence. Minister Vegas three nephews holding high positions doing nothing yet each has a vehicle to travel to and from Belmopan to Orange Walk everyday and who pays the gas???? we all do . so come on there is where we can save and pay the teachers

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