Last week the President of the Belize National Teachers Union, Luke Palacio told the media that the industrial action has nothing to do with the three percent salary increase which Government had asked to be deferred until 2017. Palacio says the strike was based on good governance and the demands made to the Prime Minister. On Friday, September 30, 2016, Palacio wrote to the Chief Education Officer, Dr Carol Babb with two more demands. The first demand was for the payment of the three percent salary increase and the second was for the reinstatement of negotiations of Proposal #22. The Proposal #22 is a document of demands presented to Government back in 2008 which Education Minister says was fully ventilated.
“On Proposal 22 understand, because if it is they are saying that they want proposal 22 delivered upon Belizeans must know the financial burden that comes with proposal 22 being implemented to its full extent. Maybe I should take some time to talk about that. What the union is asking is that the government now takes on the full pension and gratuity benefits for the grant aided schools which are mostly denominational schools and the four community schools where we are talking about proprietorship is not clear. It is already being done for government schools and understand I understand why this is such an issue for some teachers and some management they want some level of equality because the government owned schools pay 100% of these benefits but rightly so. We are the proprietors of those schools and it is the duty of the proprietors of those other schools to pay the portion of pension and gratuity for their workers or for them to engage the workers in some kind of contributory scheme to be able to provide that at the end of the day. What the BNTU has said is that they want the government to take on that slack. The BNTU in our negotiations admitted Mr.Fraser himself dwelled on the issue that the actuaries of the government who advise the government, he said he was in meeting and at the rate that we are going with the government pension scheme the government will crash. We cannot take on any more pensions in fact what we agreed on and the Union agreed is that we needed to start working on discussions that would see all 18,000 government workers start to think about contributing something toward this pension scheme because as it is we are going to crash financially. It’s not Faber says so, not Borrow it is the actuaries who are the financial experts who are telling you that this is going the case, accepted by the unions. So in a way the union is trying to twist the government’s arm to say to give them more, to pay more in terms of pensions and gratuities to all of the teachers. They demand that portion, they demand that they raise what they are spending on pensions and gratuity for all of them even though what the government is already spending 100% on all primary school teachers whether they be denominational schools or government schools the government is already doing that and there has been long been the agreement of 70/30 at the secondary level they are now pushing to have that changed and for the government to take it on. Is there an unfair situation that exists in so far as some teachers get and some teachers don’t get yes but it is a financial burden that the government simply cannot take on in the immediacy and that is why when the paper went to the cabinet the cabinet said that we cannot take it on at this time. Was it a closed door, no because as I mentioned we also said to the unions let us start a new round of collective bargaining agreement negotiations. These negotiations I am told should cover a three year span. The current ones that we were in lasted eight years. The system was flawed there were many instances of delinquency on both sides let us lay that to rest and let us a fresh, they agreed to that so this is just a kind of backpedaling.”
The letter noted in one paragraph, quote, “BNTU is not in agreement with that statement and GOB”s pstion and we are demanding that our Proposal #22 be fully and urgently addressed especially related to the employment status, service benefits and right of the non-teaching staff of our secondary and tertiary levels educational instititutions. Honorable Patrick Faber as Minister of Education took all the education rules and rights from them when he revised and amended the education rules in the Education Handbook 2000 and passed and published the new Education Amendment Rules 2012.” End of quote.