After weeks of clamoring the Government of Belize for good governance and making a firm decision to be absent from the classrooms, the thousands of primary and secondary school students are back at school for the second day since the teachers’ strike took effect on Monday, October 3. What started out as an issue over salaries quickly turned into a demand for certain measures to be put into place for the sake of transparency and accountability with the President of the Belize National Teachers Union, Luke Palacio making it clear to the media that their strike had nothing to do with the salaries. For reference, we take you back to his statement made on September 19 on the steps of the National Assembly Building.
“The 3% is not the issue. I don’t know what part of that you people don’t understand. We’ve said it is not about the 3% it is about the country. If the government decides that it doesn’t want to give us the 3% we will determine who we will proceed on that but basically we have moved on, it is not about the 3% it is about this country.”
After several meetings with the Prime Minister to negotiate the eight demands by the BNTU, the issue of the deferred salaries for teachers and public officers still made it at the forefront after where it was agreed that the wages be deferred with a five percent rate of interest after which the teachers returned to the classroom. Today, the discussion remains centred on money as the Government of Belize announced yesterday that they will not be paying the teachers for the eleven days that they were on strike. While some parties in the public court of opinion are in support of the Government’s decision, there are those who have taken pity on the teachers who will not be receiving their salaries. During the very same rally on September 19 in Belmopan, Palacio had noted that it would be illegal if the Government decides to withhold the teachers’ pay.
“If it means that we will march on the Supreme Court in our thousands to support that petition we will do it because in 2005 the court had ruled as Mr.Fraser keeps on telling us the courts had ruled that this practices of Ministry saying to management to dock teacher’s pay is illegal.”
According to Dr Carol Babb, the Chief Education Officer, the Government is acting in accordance with the education rules and that the teachers were given fair warning of this possible outcome.
DR CAROL BABB
“A number of the teachers we saying that they were willing to make the sacrifice for their salaries to be docked and we have been informing them and reminding them of rule 102 which states that if you take industrial action or if you go on a strike there is a possibility that your pay may be docked and they said they are willing to do that. The government of Belize is the one that makes contributions to the grant aided and the grant aided schools and the government is basing this decision on the fact that we give salaries based on services rendered. The teachers were warned that if they choose to strike there would be consequences and we are withholding salaries because services were not delivered by those teachers who chose to strike.”
Today a memorandum was issued by the ministry to the General Managers of the schools in which the formula for salary deductions were confirmed. According to the memorandum, if a teacher is collecting two thousand four hundred and eighty one dollars for the month, that teacher will only receive one thousand six hundred dollars after having almost nine hundred dollars deducted from his or her pay. According to the memorandum, the entire deduction should be carried out all at once. The Management of the schools have until tomorrow evening to submit final payments due to teachers to the ministry. Comments have been pouring in on social media from various pockets of society. One woman has sought to look for an alternative solution for the teachers by appealing to parents to create a fund for the teachers at St Joseph RC School in order for them to get some monies. One man whilst agreeing with the decision of the Government is asking that a middle ground be established where the teachers submit a proposal on how they will make up for the lessons missed in the classroom and upon implementation, the teachers get their full salaries. Meanwhile, also on social media, the Leader of the Opposition, John Briceno wrote, quote, “Dear UDP government, You have decided you will not pay the teachers for standing up for Belize and now you want them to make up for the time they were out of the classroom? Are you mad? Many teachers because they love their students have already decided that they will teach extra hours to catch up. Now you have a moral obligation to pay the teachers their FULL salary. And we the citizens also have an obligation to the teachers to stand up for them to pressure the UDP government to pay them. Come on Belizeans let’s stand up for the teachers!” End of quote. The Vision Inspired by the People have also joined the call for teachers to receive their full salary.