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Apr 25, 2005

Breaking news: Teachers announce strike action

Story PictureEvents are breaking very quickly on the labour front. News 5?s Patrick Jones has been standing by at B.N.T.U. headquarters and comes to us with this latest update. Patrick…?

Patrick Jones, Reporting
At the national headquarters of the Belize National Teachers Union, a meeting involving the Belize Branch of the B.N.T.U. is just concluding downstairs and major decisions have been reached so far as B.N.T.U. and teachers are concerned. I am joined at this time by the National President, Mr. Anthony Fuentes, who is going to fill us in on exactly what decisions were taken and where do teachers and schools on a whole head from here. Mr. Fuentes, what?s the latest as regards teachers and schools??

Anthony Fuentes, Pres., Belize Natl. Teachers Union
?The Belize National Teachers Union Council of Management has unanimously voted to support the Belize Communication Workers Union in its effort to acquire the thirty-seven percent in B.T.L. Our council said we are going to unanimously go on strike tomorrow.?

Adele Ramos, Amandala Newspaper
?What is it that you hope to achieve by going on strike??

Anthony Fuentes
?Well there are a number of issues that came up, we have the issue that was the agreement that was signed on the eleventh of February 2005, along with the Prime Minister; we have the issue of our B.T.L. shares, the four hundred and eighty thousand B shares that belongs to the union and the eighty-seven thousand, six hundred and sixty-six C shares. And so these are the issues that we are looking at, along with other issues, for example privatisation, we have the issue of the fifty thousand U.S. dollars that is levied against the government of Belize in contempt for the shares, so all these things are issues that we hope will be resolved as soon as possible.?

Terry Gordon, Love FM
?How long do you intend to go on strike??

Anthony Fuentes
?We won?t want to say that; it will be indefinite for right now.?

Patrick Jones
?Mr. Fuentes, after the last strike action, the education system was set back quite a bit, now you?re on strike again. How do you think this will affect the education system on a whole??

Anthony Fuentes
?Well Patrick I must say most of the time the people would like to say teachers are always in the wrong, but we are a part of this equation and as teachers we have to stand up for what we believe in. This will affect our country, and if we do not stand up today, in the future our children and our grandchildren will blame us for not standing up for and defending Belize as it is right now.?

Marion Ali, Love FM
?Today I spoke with the Labour Commissioner Mr. Paul Williams, who told me in an interview that this action that you are taking to strike is illegal. How do you respond??

Anthony Fuentes
?Well, as I said, these people work with the government of Belize and they will always try to put a spin on these types of issues. Although it?s not directly related to education, but it?s a national issue affecting the entire Belizean population.?

Marion Ali, Love FM
?Have you given a twenty-day notice??

Anthony Fuentes
?No, that is basically for the essential services??

Adele Ramos, Amandala Newspaper
?What would it take for you to return to the classroom??

Anthony Fuentes
?Well we are saying that government needs to address the issues that I listed earlier, and let?s bring back our country to where it was. In fact, both myself and Mr. Frazer met with a representative from Bear Stearns and he?s saying that Belize is at the bottom of the ladder, in fact our credit ratings is down to CCC, and he also mentioned that if Belize continues on this path it will end up defaulting and therefore Belize will not have access to the international financial institutions. And this will definitely have an impact on our country because we won?t be able to borrow monies. In fact, monies borrowed thorough bonds, the interest rate and insurance are very high because of where we are today, so we need to get back our country to where it was prior to what is going on right now.?

Patrick Jones
?I spoke to the Minister of Education earlier today and he is saying that teachers have no legitimate reason to be out of the classroom. What is your response to what the minister had to say??

Anthony Fuentes
?Well, as I said earlier, the issue of B.T.L. is a national issue, despite the fact that it?s not educational related. But it will definitely have an impact on all of the Belizean populations, so I am saying that we have to stand up now to defend our country and we?ll proceed from there.?

Patrick Jones
?Tomorrow you are asking teachers to gather at Battlefield Park, what will happen tomorrow??

Anthony Fuentes
?Well, as I said earlier, we are showing solidarity with the Communication Workers Union and all unions, all eight unions of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize will be a part of this action. Today they need us; tomorrow Belize National Teachers Union might need the Belize Communication Workers Union.?

Patrick Jones
That is the President of the Belize National Teacher?s Union and along with us is also the president of the Public Service Union. As Fuentes said, all member unions of the National Trade Union Congress are supporting this action. Mr. Dylan Reneau, what is the Public Service Union of Belize?s involvement in all this??

Dylan Reneau, President, Public Service Union
?Our involvement, as the president of the Belize National Teachers Union reiterated, we are in solidarity with the workers at B.T.L. for the acquisition of those thirty-even point five percent shares. We also have the issue of the four hundred and eighty thousand B shares that should have been given to us, but instead we were given C shares. We also have an issue of one point seven million dollars sitting in at the government savings bank, which is supposed to be turned over to the union for us to form a trust to help to do things for public officers and teachers. We also still have the issue of taxes still fresh in our mind. That is certainly something that is a bone of contention, and I think I could go on and on about all the issues. But at the end of the day, the unions are in solidarity and again we will show the government resolve and show that we are serious about a change in the country.?

Patrick Jones
?Basically then, what will the Public Service Union be doing apart from saying that you will support the workers of B.T.L.? Are Public officers going on strike too??

Dylan Reneau
?The Council of Management of the P.S.U. has agreed to go on strike action effective tomorrow. We have sent notice to the Minister of Labour, Mr. Marcial Mes, and it stated in that letter the issue of the taxation and all the issues, and the fact that we are in solidarity and in support of the letter sent by the National Trade Union Congress requesting the resignation.?

Patrick Jones
?Basically you have lost confidence in the Prime Minister.?

Dylan Reneau
?Yes we have.?

Patrick Jones
?All right, we?ll stay in touch. All the best and we?ll talk with you tomorrow. That was the president of the Public Service Union. Like you heard both Mr. Reneau and Mr. Fuentes said, teachers and others who are supporting the protest action will be gathering in the Battlefield Park early tomorrow morning and of course we?ll be there to keep you posted. But for now, reporting News 5, I?m Patrick Jones.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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