Teachers’ Union Calls Off Strike; Classrooms to Reopen

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Updated: October 18, 2016

The strike has been placed on hold as classes are scheduled to resume tomorrow countrywide. The announcement was made today by the President of the Belize National Teachers Union, Luke Palacio, who was flanked by members of the union including Keesha Young, the Executive Secretary. According to Palacio, majority of the district branches decided that it was time to return to the classrooms. However, he said, this does not mean that everything is now over. Palacio said that the BNTU will act as watchdogs to ensure that everything that the Government has promised to do is done in an appropriate time.

LUKE PALACIO

“Having polled our membership we have determined that we have made sufficient progress as it relates to our eight demands to the government of Belize that was sent to them in a letter dated September 12.”

KEESHA YOUNG

“The membership has decided that we put the strike on hold and return to the classrooms on Wednesday October 19th 2016. While we keep a watchful eye over the execution of the agreements reached. The BNTU remains committed to our good governance and respect for the workers agenda and reserve its option to re engage industrial action if necessary.”

LUKE PALACIO

“The vast majority of the branches have voted to support this press release that we have issued and so yes we definitely have the majority of the branches and the one branch that sort of indicated that they were not to prepared to do that have also told us that they will go with what the majority of the branches would have said and so basically yes the decision is by the majority of the branches.”

LOCAL REPORTER

“How would you answer the assertion that it was never about country but all about the 3 because two recent meetings were held with the Prime Minister, the one with good governance and after that meeting the BNTU decided to stay with the strike and a second meeting was held with the Prime Minister and joint negotiating team talking about the 3% specifically and after that meeting it was decided to put the strike on hold.”

LUKE PALACIO

“You people have it all wrong. We had said it is not about the 3% it is for more than the 3%. The 3% had always been there, at no point did we say that we gave up on our 3% adjustment and when it comes to the matter of the good governance there were eight demands. The eight demands were not only about good governance they included respect for the worker, we are talking about the coverage for Social Security we are talking about the BNTU special proposal 22 for our teachers and support staff at the grant aided secondary schools to be properly compensated when they reach retirement age and the 3% was also a labor related issue. The occupational safety and health bill is also a labor related issue so it would be unfair for anybody to come and say we went back now because of the 3% our position has always been that we are not going to give up our 3% the other two unions had agreed to the deferral because we stood up and we stood our ground they too will now benefit from what has been achieved. We are saying the definitely by Thursday we expect that the Prime Minister would have signed that commencement order for the 13th senator, we are expecting the the AG will submit to us the terms of reference for the investigation into the Danny Mason Case, we are expecting that on the 9th of December the Prime Minister will sign the United Nations Convention against corruption so those are things that we are holding them to and that is what we mean when we say that we will ensure that we monitor the implementation of the agreements already reached.”

The teachers were out of the classrooms for more than ten days. This means that there is a possibility that tens of thousands of dollars would not be paid as salary for the teachers collectively. Palacio explained that it’s the decision for the school management whether or not to pay the teachers that participated in the strike.

LUKE PALACIO

“We’ve said it from the beginning we keep on saying it every time rule 102 is clear you go on strike you may lose salary. We are saying to the managements there was a ruling and I remember at an appearance on a morning show one of the general managers made it clear the ruling of the chief justice was that the government cannot instruct managements to deduct for strike action. We hope that those managers will understand that these teachers who were out on strike were striking for good governance and Belize. They as general managers will also benefit from whatever good governance agenda we are able to foster as a result of what has happened. Our teachers are prepared to make up the time, we are appealing to those managers kindly give the teachers their salary at the end of the month because they were not doing anything illegal. They are standing up for Belize they were contributing to the national develop which is one of the things that our teachers are expected to do every day. We need to have our children learn ,we need to have our parents understand that we must love this country and if we love this country we must keep on fighting for what we believe will make our country a better country not only for today but for generations to come.”

Palacio made another call on all interested bodies to join in the fight against corruption.

LUKE PALACIO

“BNTU submitted those eight demands because we believe that those are demands that affect us, some of them directly some of them the whole nation and if there are others who believe that they need to take up this charge to further our cause then let them start to do so, let them engage with us but we don’t expect, it is unfair for the Belizean public to believe that the teachers must carry the entire burden of trying to correct what is wrong in our country. We are prepared to do our part, we will continue to do our part but we call on others to do their part as well.”

The BNTU will be holding an appreciation rally this weekend.