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Apr 26, 2021

B.N.T.U. Strike Action, Day 1

The Belize National Teachers Union took the streets today in their first day of protest. How like will the Union sustain this protest action? And, will their decision to protest further affect students’ academic development during an already trying year?  News Five’s Paul Lopez followed the teachers in Belize City today to learn more. Here is that report.


To stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the Belize National Teachers Union today meant walking for approximately two hours at high noon. B.N.T.U.’s Belize District Branch took the streets of Belize City in a protest march that started at the entrance of the Marion Jones Sporting complex and ended in the Yarborough Community.


Elena Smith

Senator Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U.

“Today is our first day of strike. This morning our teachers went to school, did their work as they would normally do, and then they walked off at 11:30. So this signifies the beginning of a start to however long it will take us to get what it is that we want.”


Our camera caught teachers walking out from the St Joseph Primary School compound at exactly 11:30 this morning. Even though the principal there was reluctant to speak, a release from the school noted that up to seventy-five percent of teachers from that school participated in today’s strike action.


Paul Lopez

“And how long will it take for you guys to get back to the classroom?”


Senator Elena Smith

“For as long as the government remains stubborn, we are going to be out here.”


G.O.B. says the unions are being unreasonable in requesting that they pass these legislations in a short period of time. And on Friday, inside the House, PM Briceño called on the unions to call of their strike action.


Senator Elena Smith

“The B.N.T.U. right now is calling on the Prime Minister to remove his pen off the table. We are also calling on the Prime Minster to remove that six months, that eight months that they are saying it will take to implement these good governance issues. If you want to call off, let’s call off. We want me to move back, then you move back as well and do what you got to do.”


Paul Lopez

Paul Lopez

“At least four teachers from the Edward P. Yorke High School informed their principal that they would be participating in today’s strike action.  E. P. Yorke recently resumed face-to-face learning. At least one-third of the student population was here on campus today. Principal Canto informed News Five that she does not foresee any staffing issues unless strike action is sustained throughout the rest of the week.”


Karen Canto

Karen Canto, Principal, Edward P. Yorke High School

“We are open. We are a government school. We run classes from eight o clock to one thirty and we currently have about one hundred and seventy on campus right now. And the parents have been calling and texting from yesterday asking. And the answer has been the same through, yes we will be having our classes. The reason I am not worried about the strike action affecting our students is because we are primarily online. And secondly, we teach by department, and the kids that are on this campus are the kids that we are giving extra support to.”  


Paul Lopez

“If the strike action is to run into tomorrow, and a few days after, do you see a long term sustained strike action affecting your school’s operation?”


Karen Canto

“Definitely that would concern me, but like I said, because we are online, we use primarily google classroom and teams. And I would exhort the parents to get into these classrooms with their kids.”


The minister responsible for public service, Henry Charles Usher has already informed cabinet of his intent to fix the salaries of public officers and teachers to reflect the ten percent salary cut.  This morning on Open Your Eyes, Usher said government’s wage bill has become unsustainable.


Henry Charles Usher

Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service, Constitutional & Political Reform

“The wage bill has ballooned out of control in the last twelve years or so. At a matter of fact in 2008 when the P.U.P. left office, the wage bill was around two hundred and seventy-five million.  In 2020, adding in wages, the transfers to school, and pension we are looking at around six hundred and fifty million dollars. So we see that steep increase in wages. And really, as I said right now the economy has not been growing. So what you have are the wages making up more and more of all the revenue that government collects. Now we are at eighty-three percent, eighty-three cents out of every dollar government collect goes into paying these wages and so on. It is just not sustainable.”


People we interviewed in downtown Belize City today gave varying views on the teacher’s decision to exercise their right to strike.


Belize City Resident #1

“I voted blue. We had the government was in for eighteen years. You never hear them di march and do this and do that and nothing like that. But since blue is in power, working to get this in order, working to get things to go back in good order, big whole thing with deh now. Deh want to stop this and stop that, why didn’t they march? Next question.”


Belize City Resident #2

“I say the teachers deh have to fight fuh deh rights, jump high, jump low weh the government want duh they can’t do it, because the teacher work hard for whatever they want. Even when deh deh dah school, whatever deh want buy, dah outta deh own pocket. Government nuh give deh support fuh buy things fuh them.”


Belize City Resident #3

Belize City Resident #3

“If dah against the government – a hundred. I understand this Government just take office a few months, suh deh fresh. We should give them a lee run. But, if you di ask me fuh choose between the government and the teachers, I deh with the teachers any day ova the Government.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.


Many of the protesters today wore blue and red ribbons and had their hands bound, or walked along with ribbons stretched across the street. Union members told us these symbolize their desire to cut the ties with both the red and blue parties and to no longer be bound to political affiliations, but to concentrate on national issues.

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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