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Teachers Mobilize Across the Country

The teachers are turning up the heat and Prime Minister John Briceno and his government are feeling the pressure. Teachers from all BNTU branches came out this morning in their green shirts and placards demanding the government to collect taxes owed by big businesses and companies such as BTL and SMART. Hipolito Novelo reports.

The teachers are ramping up their industrial action against Prime Minister John Briceno and his Government. Teachers from all branches took to the streets countrywide, with placards in hand, chanting “collect all taxes” and “pay your taxes” while bracing the heat of the sun. The two main targets for the teachers today where telecommunication giants, SMART and BTL-DIGI. Between these two mega corporations, the teachers say that millions in taxes are owed to the Government. So what the teachers want is for these two companies and other private businesses that owe taxes to pay up so the deficit is bridged. 

Norlan Galvez, President, B.N.T.U.  Belmopan

Norlan Galvez, President, B.N.T.U. BELMOPAN: “We have people out there big businesses that are not paying their taxes. If these people would pay their tax we wouldn’t be in this situation at this present moment so that is why we are here because if we can pay our tax, our tax automatically is deducted out of our pay and if they can do that for us why can’t they do it for the big businesses ?”

BNTU Belmopan President Norlan Galvez, says today’s message is..

Norlan Galvez, President, B.N.T.U.  Belmopan: “Pay your tax so that we don’t end up in situations like this because if you do not pay your tax this will be something that will be repeated and repeated. We have all kinds of big businesses owing big money if you collect those money the sixty million that this government is dying for they can get it in one payment from certain businesses. Well right now we are just focusing on SMART because they owe a lot and we all know who SMART belongs to and they should be the last one to be talking and all kinds of things on the TV because then they are one of the set who owes a lot. We have Digcell there.”

And while BNTU members in Belmopan picketed SMART and BTL there, in Dangriga, teachers picketed made their presence known in front of several Chinese owned supermarkets. 

Denis Flores-Henry, President, B.N.T.U., Stann Creek

Denis Flores-Henry, President, B.N.T.U., Stann Creek: “We want to clearly show that touching our salaries is not necessary. The government can improve their revenue collection and collect from these big businesses that owe them and leave the teachers salary alone that is our focus this morning.”

And this morning in the northern districts of Corozal and Orange Walk, video from B.L.N. shows teachers in their green shirts marching in front of the SMART and BTL offices. 

BNTU Member, Orange Walk: “We are picketing in protest of the millions and poor governance, better life for all Belizeans, better wages, a healthy economy all that is in our goal.”

BNTU Member, Corozal: “Well we are doing this  picketing today because we believe that it is unfair that the government is proceeding with the salary cut as they say and there is a lot of uncollected taxes by big companies and organizations so we want to bring a message to the government.” 

But is the government paying attention? Belize District Branch President for the BNTU, Tanya Flowers-Gillett, says the message is clear. 

Tanya Flowers-Gillett, President, B.N.T.U., Belize

Tanya Flowers-Gillett, President, B.N.T.U., Belize: “We’re sending a message to the government and to these business places. I mean they’re the ones that have us in the hole as well. I mean these huge amount of taxes that are owed I mean collect them so I hope they hear us.” 

In Caye Caulker Village, BNTU members told the Voice of Caye Caulker also came out in solidarity with their colleagues and so where teachers in Benque. 

Beatrice Chan, member, BNTU, Caye Caulker

Beatrice Chan, member, BNTU, Caye Caulker: “We are not really agreeing with the ten percent cut but most of all we are here to fight for good governance of our country that is the main reason why we are out here.”

President, BNTU, Benque Viejo del Carmen: “You have a lot of businesses that are not paying their taxes and the information that we have is that the amount currently that is outstanding to government in taxes is more than a hundred and fifty million dollars and the government right now is looking to put in these measures that will yield sixty million annually and if you look at a hundred and fifty million that’s two years plus an extra amount for the third year that the government needs.”

Teachers say they will continue to resist the salary cut and if the government continues to play hard ball, the intensity of industrial action will be increased. 

BNTU Member: “Many businesses owe the government, they have big taxes, SMART, BTL, why are they trying to cut our pay when the businesses owe tax to our government. Go and get your taxes leave our pay alone.” 

BNTU Member: “We are fighting for everybody out here not only teachers they cut our pay we stop spending who will suffer ? Small business, private sector, everybody.”