The situation between the Belize Teachers Union and the Ministry of Education continues tense. Today, as the Orange Walk Branch of the Union met, Minister of education Patrick Faber held a press Conference to discuss the ongoing issue of the deferment of salaries. Minister Faber stated that a letter was sent to the Prime Minister outlining the issues that are prompting the teachers to take drastic actions and those issues have moved past the three percent salary increase demands they had at first. Minister Faber discussed the situation.
“A letter was also sent to the Prime Minister from the BNTU indicating that and it referred to the Stand Up For Belize campaign and that campaign, the President and the Executive Secretary writes in this letter, will be sustained and they give the Prime Minister a deadline to address certain issues which they claim are very important to them. I was told of a flier, even though I confess I have not seen the flyer where the teachers have now put out that says this is not about the three percent. It is about about all the other issues. Last week Thursday’s meeting of the BNTU with its branches across the country was not supported by the ministry even though we did not take any measures to penalize anybody, it was not supported as I understand it by many of the managements as well because we believe that the union did not act according to the procedures that should have been put in place.”
Minister Faber went on to restate that salary increases had been discussed and agreed on by the Prime Minister but the damages that e Earl left behind caused that money to be used to help victims.
“The final figure for this last tranche was determined one week or so before the hurricane and in fact the financial secretary shook hands with the union and agreed that this is the final payment and that the government was fully prepared to pay that payment. Enters Hurricane Earl and then it is as a result of that and the immediate spending that the government had to do the monies were already put aside.”
In the letter sent to the Prime Minister, the teachers make a list of concerns that are causing them to take to the streets this Wednesday. They state that they have become concern over matters of increasing corruption in the government. Minister Faber stated that the government is acting to find solutions to the issues that have arisen citing the Audit report and the much disputed Bi-Camaral Committee proposed to investigate the report.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the teachers in terms of them wanting to fight for good governance; I think every citizen of our nation deserves that right to afford themselves that opportunity. That is not what we are saying here, we are asking back, is it that the government is doing absolutely nothing? Even recognizing that there is this report, even recognizing that the government takes a position that things could have been handled a bit differently and that there are some unfair accusations in the report coming from the auditor general, the process might not have been followed I am pretty sure that I’ve heard the Prime Minister make some concessions even given an apology to say that things did not go 100% correct in fact things may have gone very wrong in a lot of instances that the auditor general points out in that report.
Now if worst case scenario of a strike were to occur, how prepared is the government and how would they respond?
“If the teachers were to take drastic measures, if they were to strike what would be the government’s response?”
“Well that is left to be seen, we don’t know. I don’t know that they necessarily will, I’ve heard from the release that the BNTU put out to say that they are waiting to hear back from the Prime Minister, I think that now that he has written back they may well concretize whatever plans they are having but they are saying whether the Prime Minister answers or doesn’t answer, he has answered, but regardless of what the answer is they will go on a rally on Monday.”
Minister Faber stated that the Prime Minister had agreed to meet with the leaders of the BNTU, but they turned down the meeting. The estimated amount owed to the teachers so far is estimated at around twelve to thirteen million Belize dollars.