The Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) has canceled all its planned events for its 50th anniversary. It was fifty years ago today that the union was formed for the welfare of teachers around the country. According to a release from the BNTU they have opted to cancel their celebratory activities due to the economic crisis that Covid-19 has brought as well as the concerns for social distancing. The President of the union, Elena Smith says, however, that the absence of a celebration does not take away from the recognition and appreciation for teachers and the past leaders in the union movement.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “The BNTU celebrates a huge milestone, one that we’ve been looking forward to for quite a while now. We had prepared an entire year of celebration six months leading up to today and then six months after today. Unfortunately due to the situation we are currently in as a country we are unable to have that grand celebration we would have wanted to. On Saturday we would have had our banquet where we would have recognized our past leaders who have helped the union to be where it is today and then today we would have had a march through the streets of Belize City to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary today; those have been cancelled and we’re hoping that we will be able to have those activities a little further down in the year at least before we get to our next convention at which time we’ll be celebrating our fifty first anniversary.”
Smith went ahead and mentioned all the milestones that the Union has accomplished throughout its fifty years.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “We are very proud of our accomplishments that we’ve made thus far and those accomplishments are not only for our members of the teachers of this nation but it’s for nation as well. And in terms of say benefits to our members or what we’ve accomplished for our members via our negotiations are things such as a reduction in the years for long leave we went from having to wait twelve years to get a long leave to now only nine years. We’ve also went from having a forty week year to a thirty eight week school year. We’ve also had an upgrade to our Teacher’s Pension Act, salaries have been upgraded so that we are on par with public service, our teachers have gotten allowances, hardship allowance, commuting allowance, rent for our principals who have to live in the area where they teach. We’ve had scholarships for our teachers, time off for union meetings, time off to collect salaries, transfer of grants you know if you’re transferring via your management within your district or outside your district you are given a transfer grant and then internally we have our loan scheme our debt fund that we provide for our members, scholarships, IDs and our health insurance plan that we have. For the nation as you are aware we continue to and we have fought for good governance for our country and that has seen some fruits such as the signing on to UNCAC, Integrity Commission, the PAC. We’ve also fought for some years ago matters that deal with Social Security, we’ve also fought for the Finance and Reform Act so quite a bit that BNTU has accomplished over the last fifty years that we are proud that we can say to our members these are the benefits that you’ve received as a member of the union as a teacher and for a nation we can say to our nation that these are the things as a union we have fought for to see better for our country and our people.”
BNTU’s documented history notes that on July 20 1970, the teachers of Belize felt the need to have one union of teachers and so the Catholic Education Association was dissolved and its members were amalgamated to the BHUT, the British Honduras Union of Teachers which later became known as the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU).