Minister Fonseca says teachers are receiving allowances; they want more
The Minister of Education and the Belize National Teachers Union will be meeting tomorrow to discuss the various issues raised by the Union. On Tuesday, the BNTU National President, Senator Elena Smith, railed against the government and the challenges experience to finalize a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Smith stated that after 14 years of bargaining with two administrations, the BNTU can still not finalize an agreement that will benefit all of its members. One of the main issues raised, according to Smith, was GOB’s refusal to provide secondary school teachers from rural communities with the necessary allowances. However, Minister of Education, Francis Fonseca, says that while he understands the Union’s plight, he feels they are not being fair-minded and completely transparent.
Hon. Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “Yeah well we’ve been in government for two years and they allowed the previous government to kick the can down the road, never held their feet to the fire now they want to resolve all these issues in two years coming out of a COVID pandemic where the economy was on life support, we’re just beginning to get back on our feet so we’re absolutely committed to working in a respectful way with the Belize National Teacher Union on these issues. They are issues that are of importance to us. The increments, the CBA, allowances, these are all issues that are important to us because we know that our teachers make sacrifices. But you can’t have one standard for the previous government where you allowed them to do this for twelve years get nowhere and now you want to say to us oh in two years you must resolve all these issues. No we are absolutely committed to resolving these issues during this term in office but we have three years to go. So we are going to work with the BNTU, in fact I have a meeting with them tomorrow where we will specifically discuss the CBA- and I should make this point about the CBA 95% of the CBA has been agreed upon there are only about 5% of the issues that are outstanding. Obviously these are serious issues and they’re not issues that are solely in the province of the Ministry of Education they are largely financial matters which require the Ministry of Finance to give their approval and Cabinet to give its approval. So we are absolutely going to work with them. Proposal 22 is a critically important issue that we have to discuss under the CBA so we’re meeting with them tomorrow and we hope that we can start the process of resolving the outstanding issues.”
Fonseca says that the union is seeking an increase in allowances and an expansion in the list of teachers who are eligible to receive the allowances. According to Fonseca, at this point, the union’s request is one that the government simply can’t afford.
Hon. Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “First of all let’s make the point that teachers are getting the allowances many many teachers in rural communities are getting what they call hardship allowance, transport allowance. We spend as a ministry over $10 million dollars on school transportation. That school transportation isn’t just for students you know, it’s for teachers as well getting teachers to school. So we’re investing in our teachers. But the outstanding issues, these outstanding issues we are going to work on them. What they’re talking about is an increase in the hardship allowance, increase in these allowances and also expanding the allowances to other categories of teachers. So it’s not that they’re not getting it, it’s about expanding and increasing. So we will sit down and talk with them but as I just said they’re not strictly matters for the Ministry of Education those are financial matters and ultimately the Ministry of Finance will have to sign off on them but we are going to start that process of discussing these issues with them tomorrow.”