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Jan 29, 2013

Thousands of union members demonstrate in Belize’s Capital

Less than two weeks ago, teachers from all ten B.N.T.U. branches countrywide voted by secret ballot to participate in a national demonstration. The decision was almost unanimous and it would garner the support of the wider national Trade Union Congress of Belize. This morning as cabinet met, teachers from every corner of the country converged on Belmopan and were joined by representatives of the other unions. The national demonstration is the first mass mobilization by teachers on the issue of salary adjustments and there is potential for strike action if they are unable to reach agreement with government. News Five teams were in the capital and we start our coverage in front of the Belmopan Comprehensive School as teachers got ready for the peaceful march to Independence Hill.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

Just before the demonstration got underway this morning, the number of teachers was less than expected, but what they lacked in numbers they made up for in spirit. Still, buses kept pouring in and the numbers soon swelled. B.N.T.U. President, Luke Palacio, says that there are five thousand teachers countrywide, and a turnout of about half was anticipated. There were reports of government intimidation and misinformation and that might have had an impact on the early showing.


Luke Palacio

Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.

“What people need to understand is that they need to also make the decision. If they have conviction, if they believe in what they are doing, then no intimidation will stop then, but then again that is left up to them entirely.”


Our best estimates just before the parade moved out puts the numbers at approximately two thousand five hundred. They were spirited and ready to do what they needed to do to send a message to government. And that message is not ambiguous or vague. It is crystal clear.


Venancia Flores, Teacher

“I am out here supporting the B.N.T.U., our union. We are fighting for decent salary because the cost of living has gone up and for the past ten years, our pay has not gone up by a cent.”


Balthazar Chan

Balthazar Chan, Teacher

“We are demonstrating our dissatisfaction of what happened in the bargaining as we were hearing this morning, the honorable Patrick Faber talking on Wave radio and we were not happy with what he is saying to us. This is just the beginning of the demonstration. We plan to go further more if the government does not concede to our salary adjustments.”


George Frazer, Former B.N.T.U. Secretary General

“Not only the same, much greater results because our teachers and I think the wider Belizean public understand the issues. It is a matter of disrespect; it is a matter of trying to take us for fools. We have been negotiating for well over four years. We are showing them where a lot of waste is being done everyday; millions of dollars. The ministers and many others are getting big fat salaries and all kinds of benefits. Our people there who make up a lot of middle class, we are the backbone of the economy along with another middle class people and it is pushing us down into poverty. So the results is here and you are going to see today and we know something must come out of this.”


Since the decision by teachers to stage a national demonstration, government countered with an aggressive campaign suggesting that teachers and public officers are unreasonable to be asking for a collective two hundred and forty million dollar raise over three years. Retired B.N.T.U. Secretary General and vocal firebrand George Frazer dismissed that claim as a blatant lie, and by all indications, the government campaign did nothing to cool the resolve of those involved in the demonstration.


George Frazer

George Frazer

“We are not asking to give me everything one time. And the figures they are using; owe it will cost government two hundred and forty million, it is a lie. Not even a hundred million over the three years. So don’t go out there trying to fool the Belizean people. People can see, people can see it every day and we have the support of other unions and affiliates here. But the majority of course by teachers—no less than fifty bus loads.”


Venancia Flores

Venancia Flores

“That is being unfair to the teachers. Being a teacher in the profession for the past thirty years, teachers go home and they take all their work. Our day does not end at four and on Saturdays most of us go to school to help our students. So that is so unfair to say that teachers are being unreasonable.”


At around nine thirty the parade moved off from the Belmopan Comprehensive School, heading for Independence Hill. It was massive, taking up fully one whole length of the Belmopan Ring Road. The solidarity and unity of purpose remained strong, as even the U.D.P. Mayor of Belmopan and retired educator Simeon Lopez came out with his flag to add his support to the movement.

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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19 Responses for “Thousands of union members demonstrate in Belize’s Capital”

  1. Marie says:

    If an employee doesnt like what he is being paid-resign and go elsewhere. Have they ever run a business? or created a job? let alone pay another? As GOB employer, I would just say no raise and if you dont like it, go. Its not like we have any great educated students nowadays anyway. Dont let our school fees or taxes go up as they are already high

  2. Rod says:

    It’s about time unu stand up for what’s right his is the kind of turn out we need to get get rid of this useless pm and gov. Remember another 500 people will be murdered this year and you or a family member might be in that number so when your done marching for your pay march for your lifeeeeeee.

  3. northern star says:

    Pray do tell rob, what does murder and the teaching profession have in common? One is the result of the breakdown of the social fabric that held us together and the other is teachers demanding a wage hike.

    There are roughly 900 estimated rural primary school teachers in Belize. Their abilities are believed to be so far below par, as to be ridiculous. In this year’s National Teachers Exam, how badly the teachers are; who are responsible for the mass education of the young student population in Belize, is shown by the fact that only 32% of those teachers taking the exam passed.

    The statistics do not tell all the tale of the problem with Belizean lower elementary education. Of around 900 teachers, only 178 took the teachers exam and of this number only 58 passed, giving the 32% pass rate figure. Leaving about 722 teachers, who believed their skills so incompetent, they did not dare take the teachers exam. The actual qualification percentage for the estimated 900 elementary school teachers running classrooms in Belize, is only 19%.


  4. me says:

    anybody thinks we have a world class police department?

    of course not, Belize police Officers dont have the equipment and training and personnel to make it an effective force. not to mention how underpaid these officers are, seeing that times are even more dangerous now, they risk their lives EVERYDAY.

    in that same vein, if you think we don’t have world class thinkers now its because teachers don’t have the facilities and the training they need. i would suppose to fix this, government would have worthwhile training sessions, like in technology and using those applications in the classroom. provide teachers with the tools they need to do a good job. not to mention how very little teachers get paid to do their job. that, and they babysit people’s children while those people are away at work.

    A)Have you ever seen a teacher that has made a difference in a child’s life?
    The choice is so easy to make Mr. Minister!

  5. beautifulpepem says:

    @me i totally agree with you couldn’t have said it better!

  6. Bountyhunter says:

    “Marie” ignorance is bliss. You clearly must be dumb or being paid by GOB. Have they ever run a business? or created a job. Teaching is much a business as any other job. And they have created thousands of jobs by making their students ready for the working environment and skill labor. Or do you figure that employers would hire any dummy on the street thats not educated. Who should be not get a raise are those lazy government workers in all the offices and departments that take a 1000 years to do their work. Go to any government department and you’ll see who doesnt deserve a raise. All of them have fancy vehicles and get good perks. But i guess ur one of them.

  7. b.Jones says:

    @ north Star & @ Me….with the information & insight that you both present, I will present the perfect fit to the issue……

    Give a new contract(with pay increments) to every teacher who took and passed the recent National Teachers Exam…Thats not a lot of money….Schedule the same exam every six months or once a year. In between the exams the gov’t creates workshop/training/tutoring sessions for the failing teachers. this will not only justify the raise but it also insures the country that it has qualified teachers teaching the children.

    Make it mandatory that each teacher must take the exam and pass it ever 1 or 2 years in order to get an increment in pay, which was agreed upon in the new contract. If a teacher fails their pay would stay at the same level.

    This plan would be fair to both sides. No all teachers will pass, so everyone will not get a raise at the same time, which will not be a burden on the Govn’t. The teachers who do pass will be considered qualified & deserving of a new contract.

    Think about it

  8. Coc says:

    Those who offer comments like Marie obviously have never been a teacher or know what its like to walk in the shoes of teacher….no doubt those who are teachers know the tremendous sacrifices made on a daily basis even when conditions are not ideal, its time for the State to take hold of their responsibility to our children, our family and our society. Teachers have worked miracles but we are people and we do get tired and with the showing yesterday its obvious we have reached a threshold and demand immediate and reasonable attention to the issues being raised.

  9. Whappy says:

    I notice that all the people who dont have a clue about anything are the first to comment on these boards. So here I go:

    Teachers are the the the backbone of society, and without good teachears our society as we know it is doomed. There’s so many things that happen in these classrooms that the average individual would not even believe. They deserve more than GOB could even begin to pay these poor people. We entrust the education and future of our children’s lives depends on these teachers, and as everything wort something in this country, GOB tries to exploit them and take advantage.

  10. bzncruffie says:

    Marie you yourself seem to not be one of the great educated students!!! Im in full support of the teachers fair is fair!

  11. Rolling says:

    Nice going “me” so tru…

  12. Storm says:

    First, I am surprised and happy there was no violence during the protest.

    Second, many of the comments here touch on one of the most important issues in the country — the education system is generally a failure, and it is too important to let it continue to fail. Steps must be taken immediately to improve it, because otherwise generations of Belizeans will be failed and doomed to live below their potential.

    Paying bad teachers 30% more won’t make them good teachers. Teachers who can’t pass the minimum standard tests should be discharged, they cannot do the job they are hired to do.

    Our university URGENTLY needs help to create a crash course to train COMPETENT teachers, and the curriculum should be overhauled from top to bottom. If I were MinEd, I would be talking with every teachers’ college in the US and Britain to find some help TODAY.

    Creating and maintaining competent security forces and education system are the 2 most important obligations of any government. If they do those things well, they don’t need to do much more to be successful; if they do those things poorly, nothing else matters.

    The government has proved it is incapable of organizing a successful education system. It needs to step aside and let private organizations like the Catholic Church set things right, the sooner the better.

    I have read about the concept of giving parents government vouchers to use to pay any school they want to educate their children. That means that successful schools will have lots of enrollment, and failing schools will have little or none. Competition for the education dollar, in other words. If we had such a system, the teachers would hold their fate in their own hands — do well, you will be paid well; do poorly, and you will have no students and no job. What do you think about that idea?

  13. john says:

    you talk bad about teachers. it is a teacher who thought you to use a computer now you are talking bad about them (marie and northern star. you were thought by a teacher so please relax you don’t know nothing about what you are talking

  14. teacha says:

    @Storm: I agree that the education system is a failure but i disagree that it is because of the ‘bad’ teachers. The education system needs overhauling at the structural level, and what they create for us is what we MUST follow, curriculum, way of teaching, strategies, etc. It seems that you don’t even live in this country, for you to be so out of touch. Teachers Exam? yu di talk bout fa when deh use to tie daag wid sasij and he no eat it. in 2013 there is the teaching services comission, issuing of license based on maintaining professional cpds, that crash course you talking about is the certificate in primary education, so there are NO excuses from government. They have made THEIR demands, so now we are making OURS, simple as that.

  15. Steve says:

    Northern Star or Northern Shame??? Ask Patrick what was he before entering into electoral office.

  16. Genotu Rembiuos says:

    I hear that the ( thou-sands ) thousands of teachers got nothing, just a holiday with no pay.

  17. Niki says:

    I was proud to see our teachers march yesterday in peaceful protest. The demonstration was much more than the teachers demanding a raise of pay. For five years the teachers and the public officers of this country have been disrespected by Barrow and his kitchen cabinet. The teachers are not just saying find the money to pay us, they are showing the government where they can save money. Instead of at least hearing them out, Faber (the most arrogant and worthless fool this country has ever seen) dismissed them. Yesterday he was trying to goad them by sashaying by like the ….. that he is. When asked about it he said that at least they didn’t throw any missiles. Be careful what you ask for, little boy

  18. northern star says:

    I am not talking bad about all the teachers per se but highlighting the fact that our educational system is failing us dramatically. While we do need to revise the pay scales of the teachers, we must be real and check on the competency of the teachers and their methods they use to get to their respective students. In addition to this, I do believe that the government is obligated to check up on the teachers by giving them exams so as to justify whatever raise they are due.

  19. BE REAL says:

    @ northern star: You seem to have no idea about what’s happening with education in Belize. I don’t know where on earth are you living. If you don’t have any idea of the topic, then shut up. Haven’t you heard about the Certificate in Education? I believe you have no idea about teaching because I don’t know how you can evaluate a teacher based on just an exam or even what kind of evaluation you are talking about. Teachers spend years training but many of the time they lack many resources to make effective teaching. They have to buy school materials from their pay and do fundraising. Teaching is more than you imagine. Go to a classroom for a week and then come back and comment.

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