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Sep 23, 2016

B.N.T.U. and G.O.B. – Can They Work It Out?

Thursday’s four and a half hour meeting between the Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, and members of the Belize National Teachers’ Union concluded just around news time. From the immediate reactions of both sides, it seems there is still no conclusion to a saga begun months ago in the wake of the scandals surrounding the William “Danny” Mason affair and the corruption in immigration. These and other issues were put on the table by the union and many others in the interest of good governance, and the Government has acceded to some requests and is prepared to listen to others. But you wouldn’t have known that from looking at the tired faces that left the Biltmore Plaza Hotel. Correspondent Aaron Humes looks back and inquires: has there been a breakthrough, or is it more of the same?


Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.  [File: September 22, 2016]

“We cannot tell you that we are satisfied and neither are we saying we are not satisfied. But we have a process; and we keep on saying to the media, the B.N.T.U. has a process that it is following and you’ll have to allow us to make that process work.”


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: September 22, 2016]

 “I wouldn’t say that we are bracing for more demonstrations. It is that the members of the council of management will go back to their respective branches and will inform as to what took place and so any position arrived at can only come once that process is concluded. I ought not presume to anticipate the outcome of that process.”


Aaron Humes. Reporting

After four and a half hours those statements represented the most significant information coming out of Thursday’s meeting – lengthy discussion and by-the-book consultation. So is there a semblance of an outline of action on several of these major proposals? Is the Government and the Union keeping their cards too close to their collective chests? Perhaps, but as both President Palacio and Prime Minister Barrow noted, that was clearly by design.


Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: September 22, 2016]

“Well the agenda was pretty long and the issues raised by the teachers needed to be exhaustedly discussed and so that’s what happened.”



“How was the tone of this meeting and given at the teachers felt they needed to demonstration to the government that they are serious about these issues; did that play a role?”


Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: September 22, 2016]

 “Well nobody could ever have doubted that the teachers were serious; these are serious people. And so that is why the minute examination of each concern was absolutely necessary. That was done and I believe that it was a useful process and now we shall see what we shall see.”


Luke Palacio [File: September 22, 2016]

“Remember we had eight points that we needed to discuss with the Prime Minister so it took all this time. We’ve discussed; we have a number of issues that we’ve raised. In fact we addressed all the eight points we had in the letter we sent to the Prime Minister and we are now prepared to go back and discuss those responses and then determine what happens next.”


Luke Palacio

In the intervening time between the joint union negotiating team meeting last week Friday, which was preceded by the Prime Minister’s meeting with the utilities’ unions on similar issues to those raised by the B.N.T.U., there was Monday’s spectacular appearance on Independence Hill in Belmopan. And while the Prime Minister had already agreed to a meeting before that, the teachers will not take the credit for impressing the urgency on him still further.



“Do you think that the showing of the B.N.T.U. on Monday played any role in the Prime Minister’s willingness to discuss these points with you all?”


Luke Palacio [File: September 22, 2016]

“No; that would be unfair to say so. The Prime Minister had responded. Our condition in the letter we sent, dated the twelfth of September, was we want a response by Friday, the sixteenth. By the fourteenth, we had gotten a response. So when we went on that demonstration on Monday, the nineteenth, it was not hinged on whether or not he would have responded positively. There were no discussions on the matters held; that discussion took place today.”


And at the end of that discussion, we are no closer to knowing what happens next, except for President Palacio’s assurance that once the Council of Management makes its decision, all will be informed. It’s the B.N.T.U.’s move now. Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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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