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Dec 16, 2016

On school holidays, who’s talking to the teachers?

Eamon Courtenay

As far as Managing Authorities are concerned, their position is clear.  At a meeting held on November second with ministry officials, it was unanimously agreed upon that classes should resume on January third, as part of an overall schedule to make up for time lost.  The B.N.T.U. doesn’t share that position.  In fact, teachers are encouraged to enjoy the entirety of their Christmas holiday, despite the existing situation.  According to Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, those discussions never involved teachers.


Eamon Courtenay, S.C., Attorney for B.N.T.U.

“All of that is very interesting because nobody is talking to the teachers.  So, as I understand it, the government, who doesn’t understand teachers is interfering, and I repeat, interfering in the teachers conditions of work.  The Education Rules are very clear about when holidays are to be held, very clear.  There’s no doubt about that and the teachers are entitled to their holiday.  Insofar as the fact that there are days to be made up, that is not a matter for the government, that is not a matter for the Chief Education Officer.  That is not a matter for the Minister of Education.  That is a matter for the teachers and the Managing Authorities.  I have to say that it is rather surprising that here is a situation where teachers have always indicated that they are prepared to look at this issue and to have a discussion with their employers as to how this matter is to be resolved and there is no attempt by the employers to speak to the teachers.  But the government is driving an agenda with the Managing Authorities, dictating to the teachers what is going to happen.  That seems to me to be a course that is ill-advised, it is a course that the union has never advocated.  The union remains open to discuss with their employers who are the managing authorities a constructive way of dealing with this.  I want to be very clear, the union and the teachers have the interest of the students uppermost in their minds but there is a question of principle here, there’s a question of respect and there’s a question of procedure.  The Government of Belize cannot dictate to teachers when they are going to work and when they are going to get their holidays.  I would like to encourage the Managing Authorities to dialogue with the union, as representatives of the teachers, and have this matter resolved quickly.  We are heading to another industrial dispute.  It should be avoided.”

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