National President of the Belize National Teachers’ Union, Luke Palacio, announced this afternoon that teachers will strike again tomorrow. The decision was made after teachers met with their respective branch members today. The BNTU is placing a massive amount of pressure on the Government as they reiterate their eight demands in regards to good governance. We’ll have the government’s response in just a bit but first we go to the comments of the BNTU’s President.
“So my friends brothers and sisters we can see that the intimidation tactics have not worked. And because the intimidation tactics have not worked, tomorrow we continue the strike. You all make me so proud, you all make BNTU proud. I could imagine the halls in Belmopan are trembling because they are wondering what is coming next. Brothers and sisters we have withstood a test, they have been challenging us, they have been doing everything in their power to try and intimidate us but we are nation builders and as nation builders we will continue to fight for good governance and accountability and transparency not only for us but for our country and for our children and our children’s children and we have not, despite what Dean Barrow attempts to do every time he and his minions open their mouths that we should just take the 3% and keep our mouths shut, this is more than. Remember this is a peaceful protest, we are not going to destroy this country. We are going to disassociate ourselves from anybody and any organization that thinks that they will ride on the backs of the BNTU to destroy this country. Solidarity forever.”
The BNTU is reporting a success on their first day of strike. Palacio says this is despite the tactics exercised by those who oppose the strike action.
“Yes we’ve gotten that report that teachers are being paid we have been saying it since the beginning of our announcing that we will be taking industrial action there has been attempt at union busting from all quarters so we are not surprised. We are saying to those teachers if you have been paid to go to school that they should take their money but stay home if they believe in this country and the union.”
“Do you believe that the SI would lessen the effectiveness of the BNTU strike?”
“The SI would not lessen the effectiveness of the BNTU strike because we are resolved in what we are doing. We need to start to understand and get this nation to get it clear, let us stop having a government that can decide when and how Belizeans will behave simply with the stroke of a pen. Removing our freedom, removing our freedom of movement, our freedom of association, challenging what has been enshrined in our constitution has become the modus operandi of this government and we as Belizeans need to put a stop to it.”
The Christian Workers Union, like many other unions and associations, has pledged its solidarity with the Belize National Teachers’ Union. A release from the CWU says that its Executive Board along with Members of the Executive Committee unanimously decided this stance during a meeting. According to CWU President, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, CWU believes the national issues BNTU are championing are worthy of the support not just union members but all Belizeans. Palacio welcomed the support of the other unions.
In southern Belize, our correspondent Paul Mahung has reported that the Punta Gorda Methodist and the St Benedict RC Schools were completely closed. At the ST Peter Claver Methodist School sixteen of thirty four teachers showed up for classes whilst only twenty five of over six hundred students showed up for classes. At the Bethel Seventh Day Adventist School, all teachers were in classes with only few students missing. Meanwhile in Dangriga, our correspondent, Harry Arzu reported that majority of the parents are in support of the teachers and subsequently opted to keep their children home. At the Stann Creek Ecumencial High School only an estimated two hundred of about a thousand went to school today. At Delille Academy only sixty of almost four hundred went to classes today with only one fifth of the teachers showing up. At Guiluisi High School only one male student showed up for classes despite him having to travel from Silk Grass Village; meanwhile no member of faculty went to school today. As reported earlier, the BNTU strike continues for another day.