In November, no less than 1200 teachers under the guidance of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) took their causes to the Capital. Proposal 22 along with hardship and commuting allowances were some of the grievances they were pursuing in addition to respect from the Ministry. Those teachers who marched on the capital will lose salary for standing up for their rights and the decision comes during the holiday. The BNTU has responded in a press release which states QUOTE “in true Grinch-like manner, some managers have made the decision to dock the salaries of the teachers just weeks before the Christmas holidays are to begin. Although the education rules make provisions for managers to make that decision, it is one that can only be classified as downright mean-spirited and an attempt at union busting.” UNQUOTE. Love News spoke to BNTU President Elena Smith about the deduction.
Elena Smith, President of the BNTU: “We first knew about it I think it was the end of November pay which came to us in December and then in December we were told from other teachers in other managements that they too would have been docked. And so we made the decision that we were going to meet to discuss the matter. We are aware as a union that the rules do give the managing authorities to determine whether they would dock salaries or not, it is up to them. They are denominational schools as far as we are aware they are mostly, we understood from our members that the Nazarene management was first we understand, Anglican management, the Methodist management, Baptist we understood as well and there was threat from Catholic management but as far as we are aware of at this point in time we cannot know for sure that those teacher’s salaries were docked because we don’t have any evidence of such and we don’t have any evidence to say that government teachers had their salaries docked as well. It depends on your salary scale and so it could be anywhere from less than a hundred dollars to over a hundred dollars depending on where you are on the salary scale. We are aware that we had over 1,500 teachers who attended our demonstration and so if it is that all of those managements would continue with that matter it would mean then that over 1,500 teachers would be affected.”
Reporter: Since you said that you are aware that it’s within these management’s rights to make such a decision is there anything then that the BNTU can do to assist teachers who are being affected ?
Elena Smith, President of the BNTU: “Well we have to look at the manner in which the deductions were done and we have to go from that angle. As we said our teachers even though that the rule says that we have seen where the last time we had deductions made from us, our salaries were deducted was in 2005 when we all suffered for that long period of time. In 2016 it was threatened but it was not done because of the way it was done- the ministry had initiated that conversation and the rules are clear that it is the managing authority who makes that determination and not the ministry and so because of that matter we were able to take the matter to court and have that matter resolved. So what we need to do now is to look at what process the managements used in terms of determining how they will deduct and the reasons given for the deductions and based on that we will see what legal grounds we have to challenge that matter.”
Smith says that the BNTU is taking the matter seriously as it can have long-term effects on the union.
Elena Smith, President of BNTU: “It has to be looked at seriously because we do know that when our members lose salaries or when any persons loses salary it makes them think twice and so then this could potentially affect future actions of the BNTU and so we also see it not only as deducting teacher’s salaries or as a means of punishing our teachers for standing up for their rights but it is also seen as a form of union busting because these managements are aware that some of our teachers really and truly can’t afford because of their belief and position on the issues that we stand up for our teachers come out with us- it’s not that they can afford this because they feel that what we stand up for is just and right and so they join us as members they join us and so we have to look at how it’s going to affect our union long term and how it’s going to affect our members wanting to support us when we call for these actions to occur. Again is it going to minimize our strength, is it going to minimize our membership we’re not sure. At this point in time we know that our members are really and truly supportive of our union and we cannot thank them enough for that support but again as time goes by as you earn more the amount that comes out gets bigger. And so some of our members they are single parents and so they have a lot of bills to pay so they really cannot afford to have these deductions coming out every time we take action so we have to look at it from that angle.”