Last Friday, the Belize National Teachers’ Union wrote Prime Minister Dean Barrow for an update on the eight demands that were negotiated last year. This is the second such request. In response to the first letter, PM Barrow referred the BNTU to the media for the update. In the second letter, BNTU’s President, Senator Elena Smith, states quote, “It is rather unfortunate that as the Prime Minister of this country, the person with whom the BNTU negotiated its eight demands, just one year ago, you see the need to respond to us in such a disrespectful manner.” End of quote. Senator Smith spoke to the media yesterday.
Elena Smith, BNTU President
“Ok that is our second letter that we have sent to him requesting an update. The purpose of the letter was just that to ask him to give us an update on our eight demands so that we could have shared with our members because as you are aware we were having elections countrywide at our ten branches and so we knew we would have had new persons round the table and so we wanted to share with them an update on what has been done or achieved thus far as it relates to those demands and so that is what we were requesting. Unfortunately, as you are aware the Prime Minister wrote us saying that we can get that update from the media and so I’m hoping that maybe you can share something with me today that I can share with my members. When the council saw that response the council said that we had to respond and ask him again and let him know that our letter was a legitimate letter to him because we really wanted to update our members so that they know what would be our next step and when I say our next step I mean that we have gotten this far what is it that we need to do to accomplish the rest of our eight demands so that was all that we wanted.”
According to the BNTU, the Prime Minister suggested his willingness to meet with the BNTU and the Public Sector Union, PSU, the Association of Public Service Senior Managers, APSSM, and the National Reade Union Congress of Belize, NTUCB. However, in the letter, Senator Smith pointed out that the BNTU’s membership engaged in strike action for eleven days, marched and protested on their own.
Elena Smith, BNTU President
“When we were looking at these eight demands we were essentially on our own and so we met with him and we negotiated with him and nowhere in our discussions with the Prime Minister did we agree to include our other colleagues in those negotiations except for the fact that we did agree that we would give up the *USH* and have that dealt with by the NTUCB. If you note of our eight demands that was not included and so then there was no need in our view for him to copy our letter or the response to those other unions and say that he would meet with us only if we all meet together. We see it as a tactic to divide and conquer, we are aware of what happened last year when we were on strike, all of the comments that were made with regards to the other unions and so we are not here to put any wedge further into those relationships. As a matter of fact we continue to work with these unions because we must continue our negotiations and so it would seem then that the Prime Minister is trying to put something between us that there can be this division among the unions and we don’t appreciate it and we want those to know that this is the doing of the Prime Minister not of the BNTU because again we met with him and we came to an agreement with him, BTNU and the Prime Minister no other union was there.”