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Feb 4, 2014

The B.N.T.U. rallies; union says the numbers don’t lie

Fresh off a series of rallies and marches, the Belize National Teachers Union took stock today of a series of industrial actions held throughout the month of January. The final stop was last Friday in Punta Gorda and the biggest turnout was in San Ignacio where the teachers braved the rain. The most militant and powerful union was pitted against the government and as the rallies moved to the districts, the discourse deteriorated. But was the industrial action a success? The B.N.T.U. says it is satisfied with the number of teachers that answered the call against corruption, other national issues and for salary adjustments. This morning, the B.N.T.U. said it won’t be deterred by detractors and that it is moving to phase two of its campaign. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Since launching a countrywide campaign last month during which hundreds of members have taken to the streets in peaceful protest, the Belize National Teachers Union is considering the impact of its rolling demonstrations.  But there are cynics who criticize the respective local attendance as anemic, an assessment which union executive Kathleen Flowers flatly rejects.


Kathleen Flowers

Kathleen Flowers, Belize District President, B.N.T.U.

“Our antagonists, those who are not in support of our cause are going to be looking at our numbers and try to play that numbers game.  We know how many shirts we distributed and we know how many bodies were wearing those shirts.  And so we counted our shirts that were out there, so when you hear us talking about these figures it’s because of the count that we did.  Yes, the truth is there are some teachers who received shirts but did not come out but they wore their shirts to school that day and they were in solidarity.  The come out matter for them has to do with a personal conviction that they may not have arrived at yet, that they are believing in the cause enough to want to be a part of the thing.  What is wrong here is the general concept that we as a people have not bought into the idea yet that the power of the people is greater than the powers that be.”


And the powers that be, to hear them tell it, are their biggest detractors.  According to President Luke Palacio, the B.N.T.U. has been wrongly labeled by the government of the day, as well as its political functionaries, as part of the opposition.


Luke Palacio

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

“We need to change from this culture of where when one political party is in office and the other is in opposition and the people they rally, they are branded as opposition, even if before they were the supporters of that party that then became elected to government.  This is what has been happening to us at the Belize National Teachers Union, all of a sudden now we are branded and any Belizean that stands out.  Imagine what happened to the chamber of commerce for lending us support, they were like vilified in the House of Representatives by our leaders.”


It’s a solemn reflection by the union in the wake of six successive rallies that have been held in an effort to bring to the fore a range of pressing social matters, aside from the issue of the salary adjustment.


Luke Palacio

“As we traveled in the rallies, the rallying cry was for us to stop corruption in this country and we see again certain actions taken.  We see, for instance, where the government has decided that the board of the Belize Airports Authority, although that whole board was dismissed or they were asked to resign, yet the person who came to prominence as a result of what was going on with the money at the airport authority is still sitting in the House of Representatives, has not been punished any at all.  So we cannot, we don’t believe that we want to continue to see band-aid being put on big cut wounds as it relates to corruption in this country.”


Kathleen Flowers

“I dare anybody to tell us, when we took to the streets of this nation during the month of January, were we not in service?  In service and in-service training for this nation.  Were we not successful?  Yes, we dare say we were.  We brought a level of success in that we got the nation thinking about the issues.  Shut your ears to the noise in the market.  The noise in the market is telling you that B.N.T.U. is only about the salary but we proved that differently.  We proved otherwise.  We are speaking to this nation’s business.”


It seems however, that after several weeks of attempting to raise awareness on the issue of the union’s business, the much delayed salary adjustment; there is still confusion where it concerns the pending increment.


Luke Palacio

“That increment has nothing to do with salary adjustment and we have to say that over and over and over again.  They don’t understand.  And in terms of the teachers, it is also in our rules after satisfactory performance and appraisal that has a certain percentage point that must be achieved then you get an increment and we’ve said over and over a number of our teachers, particularly at the secondary level and the ITVETs they stop at the fourth point on the salary scale until they get this big word weh we call pedagogy for them to move on.”


The adjustment will come into effect retroactively as of July first.  The union nonetheless, says it will continue to champion the cause of the Belizean people. 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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2 Responses for “The B.N.T.U. rallies; union says the numbers don’t lie”

  1. jr says:

    Kathleen Flowers must be counting herself twice to increase BNTU turnout. As and educator she should be looking after her health..

  2. LOL says:

    You all should join with other unions plus concerned belizeans and marched down to the PM’s house or down on capital hill!

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