The Belize National Teachers Union held a demonstration on Saturday morning in Belize City that showed a low turnout compared to the previous rallies. President of the BNTU Luke Palacio spoke with us about the objectives for the demonstration and stated that the teachers are still discontented with the Ministry of Education.
“As you can see we started promptly at around 9am. We still expect some of our members to come in but basically it is going as planned. The objective of today’s demonstration is to demonstrate to the Minister of Education that we are not going to be allowed to be bullied and he must learn to listen to the voice of the teachers. The teachers are saying that we are prepared to make up the time that is what we are about and also another objective here is to thank the many Belizeans who supported us during the 11 day strike and who continue to support us at this time. Our member are never satisfied with our union. Our members are very much satisfied with what the union has done and what the union continues to do to try and get their salary issue rectified.”
Senator and BNTU member, Elena Smith was at the demonstration and spoke on the teacher’s support. She also stated that the teachers will not try to remake classes that were missed during the strike.
“We have made it clear that we are not going to be punished twice. And so if it is that the Ministry refuses to pay us for those days then we won’t make up any time for those days because we will be giving away 11 days of pay and we will be giving them 11 days free and that is not fair so we will not be making up time if we are not paid.”
Chief Executive Officer at the Ministry of Education, David Leacock commented on the ongoing situation stating that he hopes for a resolution that will benefit all teachers.
“As you know not all teachers were on strike. There were some teachers who reported to work and the question arises if we are to make up the time what happens to the teachers who did not strike. If you are asking them to make up additional time when they showed up for work they will naturally say that that will be unfair now the argument may be that they showed up to work but only a few or no students showed but nonetheless they did show up to work and so they will have a legitimate argument to say that it was not their fault. So part of the reason for requesting the meeting was to resolve that issue, how do we make up the time and how do we deal with the teachers that were not on strike if they are asked to be make up additional time then naturally they will be expecting compensation.”
“What does the Ministry think about compensating them?”
“I think it would only be fair that we find some middle ground that would be fair to all the various parties involved. The teachers who did not go on strike who reported to work the students who were deprived of instructional time and to be fair to the teachers who were on strike and are now being asked to make up time and I think that is part of the reason for seeking the meeting to try to arrive at some negotiated agreement.”
Around three hundred people attended the demonstration on Saturday morning.