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Apr 19, 2021

Unions Stage Monday Morning Traffic Blockade

If you were trying to get to work or school this morning, you may have had your commute delayed by the Belize National Teachers Union and Public Service Union highway blockades.  The traffic shutdown was part of a week of protest actions leading up to Thursday and Friday’s budget debate inside the National Assembly.  At the heart of the issue is the pending ten percent salary cut and three-year increment freeze for teachers and public officers.  While no tires were burnt and the protests lasted only minutes, they were well coordinated across the country. News Five’s Paul Lopez moved between the blockades outside Belize City.

 

Paul Lopez, Reporting

Today’s activity included vehicles that were experiencing mechanical difficulties for exactly fifteen minutes beginning at seven am, just at the start of the morning rush hour. The Belize National Teachers Union President, Elena Smith, appeared on Channel Five’s Open Your Eyes, when B.N.T.U. members were already out on the Phillip Goldson and George Price Highways.

 

Senator Elena Smith, National President, Belize National Teachers Union

“Well as you are aware we have been having our discussions with the Government side. And it does not seem that we are at a point where we have agreement. And so, our teachers, now are not satisfied with the way how things are going. And this is just one way of them showing their dissatisfaction with what is going on.   We do have the Public Service Union as well joining us in different areas. So, its not just the teachers, we have the other Unions joining us.”

 

Commuters decided to foot the journey from the North to the South end of the Haulover Bridge, as these B.N.T.U. members assessed a taxi van for mechanical issues, in the middle of the bridge. But these teachers are no mechanics, and there were no real mechanical issues. It was all a well staged act of civil disobedience.

 

Senator Elena Smith

“As you are aware Marleni, all our activities are out in the public. So, there is no reason for us to be hiding what we are doing. Our teachers are not happy. Our public servants are not happy. So, we have to find ways and means of showing our discontent. We are aware that the situation right now with COVID-19, there are certain things that we would have been able to do that we cannot do now. So there has to be other ways and means of showing our dissatisfaction with what is going on.  This is just a short period of time that we are going to be here. This is nothing compared to what we are going to be suffering in the longer run. Fifteen minutes is not a long time.”

 

Motorists and those using public transportation had to press their way through the road blockade at the roundabout intersection between, Faber’s Road extension, Chetumal Street and the George Price Highway. Members of the A.P.S.S.M. were not a part of this morning’s blockade, however, they stand in were in solidarity with the two Unions.  P.S.U. President Gerald Henry argues that G.O.B. would be able to give public servants a raise if it were to collect outstanding taxes owed by companies and individuals.

 

Gerald Henry, President, Public Service Union

“There are two sides of the budgets there is the expenditure side, the revenue side and the Government has not spoken much about revenues at all. And we have seen the numbers where a few people owe millions of millions of dollars to the Government of Belize. We the public officers see this We have that information and so we are saying man you can go and get that money from these firms, these businesses, these individuals and you would not have to come to us.   If it is that the Government goes and collects these outstanding taxes that is owed to the Government of Belize by these business and individuals, the public officers would get a raise. That is how terrible it is.”

 

Road blockades were reported in other areas along the George Price and Phillip Goldson in Belize, Cayo and Orange Districts. Police presence at all locations was visible, but no real attempts were made by officers to clear the blockades. The unions are scheduled to organize a protest walk on Tuesday, at midday, a medical checkup day on Wednesday, and demonstrations during Thursday’s and Friday’s budget debate.

 

Gerald Henry

“It is all a part of the entire process to get the government to listen to us. And so, it is essentially to stick a point at the point where the Government is looking at the budget. We believe that is when there will be most attention paid. We decided that is when we will take another form of action, as it relates to the industrial actions. We are also terribly upset with the way the Government have been treating us.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

 

To date, the Government of Belize has been unsuccessful in getting either of the joint union membership’s support for the cost-saving measures that affect the unions.


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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