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May 21, 2021

The Unions Take Sugar City in Large Numbers

They came from all over the country, some as far as rural Toledo, to send a resounding message to Prime Minister Briceño and his government.  The unions sent that message during what may be the largest gathering of teachers and public officers since the beginning of industrial action in late April.  They walked and sang through the main streets of Orange Walk Town before culminating at the People’s Stadium.  Throughout it all, they remained resolute in their position that government must adopt good governance measures.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The unions descended en masse on Sugar City today with busloads of teachers and public officers arriving from distant reaches of the country.  Orange Walk is the hometown of the prime minister and since he has been noticeably absent from the negotiating table, they’ve decided to bring the message to the source.


Elena Smith

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

“Our teachers are saying that the message must be sent and today was that day for us to send that message.  We are in the correct place and so, you know, we felt that being here that we would be heard and we hope we were heard.”


It’s easily the largest show of strength since the strike began several weeks ago.  On record as the longest work stoppage for teachers, the Public Service Union is also onboard and has been participating in work to rule activities in support of the cause.


Gerald Henry

Gerald Henry, President, P.S.U.

“We are out here today, we are hoping that the numbers will encourage the government to come back around the table because we want to solve this thing as much as they want to solve it.  We don’t want to continue injuring the country, we know that it is causing some damage but this is what these actions are all about.  This is the only way that the people can be heard, the law allows and that’s the way how the law balances the power between the employer and the employee by giving us this right to industrial action when we are not satisfied.”


Instead of placards, the Nurses Association of Belize whose membership is made up of frontline health workers, carried large brown pods that we colloquially refer to as “stinkin’ toe bukut”.  The symbolism is quite apparent.


Darrell Spencer

Darrell Spencer, President, Nurses Association of Belize

“Bukut has been following me throughout this process and it just goes to show that whether red or blue, all we always end up getting is bukut.  We always get the dirty end of the deal, it’s time for our people to start using bukut as a museum piece.  Put it behind us and let us get good governance, let us get UNCAC, let us get whistleblowers, let us get all of these things, anti-nepotism laws.  These things are available, it’s just for them to go through it and adopt it but none of them want to do it because if I make a law to chastise you then when it’s your turn that same law will chastise me, so they are dragging their feet.”


Notwithstanding the threat of having one’s salary docked for participating in the strike beyond May fourteenth, government workers and teachers have decided to stand up for what they believe is fair and just.  According to PSU President Gerald Henry, this type of activism is not limited to Belize.


Gerald Henry

“We are all talented Belizeans here in this country so we know when it is that we deserve better.  We have to fight for it sometimes but that’s the way how it goes.  It doesn’t only happen in Belize, this is not a political movement, it is a people movement.  It happens in Belize, it happens in the U.S., it happens across the world, so there should be no surprise.  They shouldn’t be attacking us as if though we are politicians.  These things happen around the world.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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