The Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) and the Ministry of Education have made very little progress so far in ironing out their differences but following today’s meeting there just may be a positive way forward. Teams from both the BNTU and the Education Ministry, led by their leaders President Elena Smith and Minister of Education Patrick Faber sat down for about two hours this afternoon for a closed-door session. The BNTU team exited first and President Elena Smith was circumspect about the meeting but made it clear the door was open to negotiation on proposal 22 and hardship allowances and their categorizations.
Elena Smith President BNTU: “The meeting today was to chart a way forward in terms of the issues that we raised with the Ministry and so the meeting was for us to do just that, to determine how we are going to proceed with looking at those issues that we had, proposal 22, hardships and all of those areas.
Jose Sanchez: “Are you able to share any details as to how those talks went?”
Elena Smith President BNTU: “Well we have agreed that we are going to be setting other meetings so that we could address each of them individually and come to agreement on them. We are hopeful and at the same time we are expecting that results will be favorable.”
Jose Sanchez: “How long before there is any feedback regarding what you presented to the Ministry officials?
Elena Smith President BNTU: “ Well we start meetings next week so we are hoping that within a few weeks or so we will be able to control all of those matters.”
Jose Sanchez: “So this is just and initial sit down?”
Elena Smith President BNTU: “Correct, its just a meeting to chart the way forward in terms of how we are going to address the issues.”
Jose Sanchez: “Okay so mam was there any discussion brought up regarding the recent process on whether or not they would instruct managers to dock pay from teachers?”
Elena Smith President BNTU: “No we did not discuss that matter at all but we do trust that heads will prevail and that managements will not make that decision.”
Jose Sanchez: “But it is clear that previously there was no acceptance from the Minister regarding the items that were on the table so they fully accept that they were wrong? the officials ?
Elena Smith BTNU President: “Well I am not sure if they were wrong, we are just saying that the matters that were raised were matters of concern and we had previously agreed that we would be addressing them and so today was just to chart that way forward and how we are going to address those matters.”
Jose Sanchez: “So for the subsequent meetings you plan to have the entire representatives from the different, or at least a representative from the different branches?”
Elena Smith President BTNU: “Depending on what you are going to be discussing because some of the matters have to do with our negotiating team and that group will be for those meetings and the other ones we will have our Presidents attending those other meetings.”
BNTU Elena Smith said moving forward, the union is cautiously optimistic.