Perhaps because they have been fighting for it for so long, the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) and its partners the Public Service Union (PSU) and Association of Public Service Senior Managers (APSSM) have increasingly become identified with obtaining a salary adjustment for teachers and public officers – and subsequently attacked for displaying greed in a time of prudence. Well, the BNTU in particular and the unions in general are not about to take that anymore. According to Kathleen Flowers, BNTU vice-president and leader of the largest branch of teachers in the country here in the Belize District, the Union will start a campaign to educate – which we suppose is the appropriate word – the general public on the importance of the union and teachers in general.
“We are not even talking about negotiating a new increase because the collective bargaining that we are doing right now is a backdated collective bargaining which should have been bargaining for you already. But we are not going there yet. So, imagine taking so long to get up to speed, what will happen when we get our collective bargaining. Now, when we quote to that, we want to develop such a good relationship in this bargaining process that we won’t go through this again that we are now going through. So, the back in mind is to have a greater public image for BNTU and we are going to do so and be side and put the support with you fellow union brothers and sisters in the Trade Union umbrella organization called NTUCB and we are bringing all of those on board. develop that union where the unions no longer deal with contentious matters and deal with crisis management”.
The chosen slogan of the Union is “Teechaz gat yu back!” And as Flowers says, that means more than simply being in the classroom.
Kathleen Flowers: “Teechaz gat yu back not only have yu back in educating our children in this nation, but we have yu back dih get dis nation turn around. We gonna be a loud voice in getting rid of discourages that are hurting this nation because we are such a precious country with so much resources, but because we have big people who are bleeding us dry and looking into face what they are doing and tek us what they are doing. BNTU and the union movement will not pave it no more. When we call on the public to join us in using the grieve(I have a couple of teachers that are modeling that grieve-the neon grieve”. When we call you to where we are on certain days, is because this is a part of our public campaign to speak to the matter that we will be addressing as we go along”..
There will be a series of rallies in the district capitals starting in the North on Friday, January 10, and the public is invited to attend. Flowers says they will also approach the media as part of their efforts.
Kathleen Flowers: “We want to be respected as social partners that play a role and that have a voice and that can use our voice. So, we have now thought of bringing a public relations image into the matter. Yes, it has always been there, but in the background. That will be our thrust in 2014 and we are hoping to bring everybody along. Hence, we are talking about having a good relationship with the media because we can’t do it by ourselves. So, we are going to put us out there, my brothers and sisters in the media. Please do so in a public, but positive night. Don’t only go so when we dih fight or when we dih quarrel. Show we when we are doing good things as well. You now investigate it as well. Come out to our classrooms and show what teachers are doing everyday”.
The Union’s efforts are part of a wider initiative on the part of the NTUCB.