While the increase in SSB contributions has been deferred to April, what is certain is that teachers and public officers are still grappling with a ten-percent cut in their salaries. Government announced last week that for the holidays, they will give each teacher and public officer a one hundred-dollar bonus. In an extended interview with Senator Elena Smith, President of the Belize National Teachers’ Union, Love News learned that she was one of several teachers who used the money to help others.
Senator Elena Smith, President, BNTU: 10% salary cut and increment freeze has not been easy on our teachers especially with this pandemic now and what they have to be doing heading back to school, you know the supplies that they have to be getting it really and truly has taken a toll on our members. And in the face of all of them what has made it even worse is the fact that the government I believe they think that they were doing something good decided without contacting us any at all, saying anything to us, that they were going to just they were going to deposit the posit $100 extra into your account. That’s a slap in the face. You are telling me that I have taken away your increments, I have taken away part of your salary and now I have not given you any update on the position but guess what I’m going to give you $100 so that you can use to buy something for Christmas. How should we take that you know? Put yourself in that position if you were one of us and you are being given this $100 as a bonus whatever the word that they’re using but you have not gotten any update from the government in terms of how we’re doing as a country how do you take that? And so while we have members who are happy for the $100 because you know what any little bit counts, we have some who are looking beyond that and are looking at the fact that you know if it is that you wanted to give us something then maybe give us back our increment, give us back part of the 10%, something to that effect something that is more long term, more beneficial. But we cannot say at this point our members that is possible because this is the current situation, we have not seen that but yet you are able to do these things and so those are the kinds of concerns our members have shared with us and for some of our people they have said outright you know what I did not ask for this I see it as an insult and so I will take this money and I will give it to somebody who is in need and so some of us have done that including myself. I trust I got it, I haven’t checked, but I’ve already given it away. It’s the principle of the matter to me and that is the reason why some of our teachers have made that decision that you know what I will not accept it but I’m going to give it to somebody in need.
In a separate interview with PSU President Dean Flowers, he explained that many public officers were encouraged to do the same.