The question being asked by many teachers across the country tonight is “Will the union organize a strike action?”The Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) area at loggerheads over the re-categorization of hardship and rural allowances for teachers. The BNTU indicates alleges the final list of schools was done without consultation and was delivered with only a few days’ notice to teachers. The BNTU serves on the Joint Education Staff Relations Council and although its President sits on the Council’s subcommittee, it has not received a finalized list from the Ministry as it relates to the schools which fall under categories for hardship, rural allowances and time off to collect salaries. The Minister of Education Patrick Faber, flanked by senior members of the Ministry explained that the union did not object to the changes while they were going through a lengthy process.
Minister of Education Patrick Faber: “You are saying that even though the government is providing a bus to bring you to town on payday you still want time off because they are getting time off all along and you deserve time off and so I want it. We have situations in our district in this country in Corozal, our district manager is here where there is half day every Friday, I kid you not in all the schools in the rural areas in the south and it is a problem we have been trying to address. Every rural school in Corozal has every Friday afternoon off and even though it is not a payday. These kinds of things my friends have got to stop. There is a lot of time wasting and our children are not being served properly and we have got to do something about it and there are lots of things in the system that people are trying to hold on to. It is today the matter of time off, half day, whole day or whether you are determined to be in hardship area or not but there are lots of thing: one of the things the Union tried to revive for instance, not only the BNTU, a vacation grant. I will tell you a lot of things are very anti coated in this system that people are trying to hold on to when it is causing a slow death of our system, our children need more contact hours and we need to stop wasting time and dilly dallying. A lot of teachers are holding onto these things almost as if is entitlement. We are not quarreling you know but we have take our standards the government, we have to take our stand as the Ministry of Education and do what is right. Nobody can argue with those categories that are up there, they are firm, they are justified, things have changed, we have online banking, we have online bill payment, we have better roads, government is providing bus runs in many of these areas to bring you to town. We have to pay the bus operators additional monies on payday to bring the teachers out. There are some schools that were in the rural but they were right on the outskirts of a town. Trial farm is one that came to mind immediately in Orange Walk but you need time off to go, the actual farm that is practically in Orange Walk. These are the kinds of situations that are very real and that are the points that I suspect and I don’t suspect grandly, I suspect because I have heard on the ground that people are fighting to keep and if that is what the Union insisting on as I suspect they are then you know this is not going to work. Ultimately it is the Ministry of Education that has to set it foot down. While it is we can sit here and argue whether there was finalized list, that is neither here nor there in my opinion. These ladies often have a different view from me and they keep me balanced but it is the Ministry that has to make that decision ultimately.”
Faber said that the Ministry will allow the old system to continue for one more payday.
Minister of Education Patrick Faber: “To put out a release where you’re trying to threaten the government almost to try to flex your might for something that you were part of the process, you had all the opportunity has to suggest in my view that you were caught sleeping at the wheel and the membership is now putting you in check and the only way to appease them is the play hard with the government but that is not what we are about so we want to have a peaceful resolution to this situation. We have discussed the matter and I will tell you that we are very inclined to be flexible not only to the extent that this is new and people may not have put in place their proper planning and tomorrow is payday and so as far as we’re concerned we are able to be lenient for tomorrow but we will not change this and so we will proceed with this for the next payday and so if you question is are we conceiving that tomorrow things can happen as it used to happen in the past then yes that permission is granted but immediately for the next month and for the next payday I will expect people to comply with regulation as it is set by the Ministry of Education.
Jose Sanchez: “To be clear definitely no further negotiation regarding the finality?”
Minister of Education Patrick Faber: ” no no it doesn’t mean that we can’t sit down and hear the concerns but you know what this is, what I am saying it is either in the criteria or not. The school either meets three or five or seven or whatever number of the criteria that puts you in the category or not.”