Teachers Press for a Written 5% Increase Binding Response

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vlcsnap-2014-03-08-00h31m06s41While the House of Representatives met in session for the budget reading, members of the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) rallied outside, demanding respect from the Government and defying a reported threat of a pay cut for skipping school at the start of a three-day weekend.

As PLUS News reporter Aaron Humes found out, their message hasn’t changed – and it is growing louder than ever before.

Reporter Aaron Humes

Early this morning, a rally at the Belmopan Comprehensive School marked the start of the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU)’s efforts to underline for the Government of the day their seriousness about coming to grips with the state of Belizean affairs.

They made an impressive sight along the East Ring Road, marching steadily toward the seat of power on Independence Hill, Belmopan. Estimates numbered approximately 700 marchers, with a further 60 to 70 choosing to wait for their fellows on the Hill.

Their voices defiant and upraised, placards proclaiming their many issues, they made perfectly clear that Minister of Education Patrick Faber has gone too far by quoting that section of the Education Rules regarding consequences for industrial action.

vlcsnap-2014-03-08-00h32m44s255Mr. Luke Palacio- President of the BNTU

“We do understand that some of our individuals are intimidated; we do know that some are behind some other agenda.  We want them to understand that we respect their views, but don’t let them come and try to impose that on us because we believe in what we are doing.  That is why we are taking this stand today, and if we have to take another stand in another time, we will do it”.

Gathering of Teachers:  “Yeeeeeeeeeeeah, clap, clap, clap, clap!”

Mr. Luke Palacio: “Even the people at the Ministry of Education are misinterpreting the Education Rules.  To write down and send down that circular speaking about they will cut our pay, we have written to them and we have said, we know that even before you even do.  And we understand what it means to stand up for country, we understand what it means to make sacrifices, because brothers and sisters, cowards die twice before their time; we are not cowards”.

According to the teachers, the Prime Minister’s word is not enough: they want assurances of the promised 5% salary adjustment and increment in black and white.

Mr. Luke Palacio: “We are tired every time they open their mouth, you hear a different figure.  After 3.5% and then a month ago it was a 4%, and now it is a 5%…and tomorrow it might be a lower percent.  That is why we are demanding it in writing.  We are going to hold them to what they have proposed.  It was the Prime Minster himself who proposed the formula for a salary adjustment.  The Financial Year is not yet over, brothers and sisters, and this gentleman has declared 5%.  What happens to the rest of revenue that will be collected in the month of March? Are we going to be out of that? Wesay, no way”.

Gathering of Teachers:  “Yeeeeeeeeeeeaaah, clap, clap, clap, clap!”

During a break around 10:30, representatives of the Opposition People’s United Party emerged from the House to meet with the teachers. They were supposed to provide a little weight to the rally – however unneeded by today’s appearances – with a contingent of their own supporters from out west. Deputy Leader Julius Espat tells us why they did not.

vlcsnap-2014-03-08-00h59m09s180Hon. Julius Espat- Cayo South Representative/Deputy leader of the PUP

“This is important.  We are in solidarity with the teachers. I think it is important that their voice, that they stand up for what they believe and I think all Belizeans should stand up for what they believe.  That is why we are supporting them”.

Reporter Humes:  “We understand that the PUP was slated to bring their own group from the western area”.

Hon. Julius Espat: “We cannot disrespect the teachers; we are here to be with them, not here to bring out a separate political group.  That’s how it is.  Reporter Humes: 

Reporter Humes:  “So, you have decided that that would not go ahead”.

Hon. Julius Espat: “That was never the decision, but we are here in solidarity.  They would stand far because for our leaders, but we are here in solidarity”.

The ruling party appeared unconcerned by the show at the foot of the Hill. Prime Minister Dean Barrow waved at the teachers below as he walked up the steps to enter the National Assembly.

At the end of the budget reading, Education Minister Patrick Faber was greeted by a chorus of boos and catcalls, but if it caused him any disquiet, he did not show it. He also did not speak to reporters, leaving the Assembly in his waiting vehicle.

In the final analysis, today’s rally was all about unity, and the future of the nation, expressed by this little girl who read a poem to the assembled multitude.

vlcsnap-2014-03-08-05h32m10s231Little Girl-Poet

“My poem is called Solidarity.  You must fight for what you believe in, no matter if you win or lose”.

Gathering of Teachers:  “Yeeeeeeeeeeeaaah, clap, clap, clap, clap; mek e read, so alah we cu’ yer!”

Little Girl: “You must fight for what you believe in, no matter if you win or lose, even of it seems like a last chance ,we must put together our worries and pause.  We have come together in solidarity, love and purity.  Let’s what we can do, fight together, me and you.  Take an stand will make our mark for shining our lights and brighten up the dar;, We are powerful together; we’ll give up never; they’ll see how bright we are cause we are brighter than shining stars”.

Gathering of Teachers:  “Yeeeeeeeeeeeaaah, clap, clap, clap, clap!”

The 34 Million dollars has not appeared to buy their love.  Reporting for Plus News, Aaron Humes.

In the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister made several references to the rally, accusing unionists of allowing themselves to be led by union leaders who are “clearly playing politics.” President Palacio, apprised of this, noted that politics is the Prime Minister’s job, and that union leaders are elected because they are trusted to represent the union to the fullest of their ability.

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