Meanwhile, teachers continued with their second day of strike action. Here in Belize City, members of the BNTU staged a picket near where the Prime Minister was meeting with his Cabinet. Reporter Vejea Alvarez was out there today.
An estimated twenty persons picketed in front of the House of Culture this morning just after nine o’clock as Cabinet ministers prepared to meet for its weekly session. Today April 27 marks day two of the teacher’s strike after weeks of meeting with the government over a 10% salary cut and a three year increment freeze. The meetings with the government began on February 9 but as the weeks progressed the fight evolved from a salary cut to good governance demands. This morning, just as was the case yesterday , the teachers and their supporters equipped themselves with posters and placards hoping to get the attention of the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Branch president for the Belize District Tanya Flowers Gillet says the teachers were doing what they do best and that’s to educate.
Tanya Flowers-Gillett, BNTU President, Belize Branch: “What we’re doing today is an education campaign. We started from Battlefield Park and we’re distributing our information flyer after which we will do a small picketing around the House of Culture today. We’re sending the same message from day one asking for good governance, corruption to come to an end, the implementation of UNCAC, nepotism to stop, transparency, financial accountability. We are sticking to the regulations hence the reason for a small number.”
Vice Principal at Saint Ignatius Primary School Mario Rodriguez Sr. says the BNTU has always been at the forefront of standing for the country. His comment comes amid some criticism against the union for not taking a stand prior to now.
Mario Rodriguez Sr. , Vice Principal, St .Ignatius: “We have to make a stand, this is BNTU and as you know BNTU has always been at the forefront of standing up for this country. Again we’re here because we need to tell this government that they need to get things right. It is not jus about the ten percent in fact the ten percent doesn’t matter if you don’t fix the country. We are saying here enact legislation, the asset recovery bill which will ensure that they give back, all those people who have benefitted from the public purse in illicit ways, immoral ways they need to give it back now at the time when the country needs it. And then the other one says enact the whistleblowers legislation. Those people who are the public servants, those people who are there and see or anybody who is seeing the wrongs that are happening they need to feel free to be able to blow the whistle to tell what’s going on so that we can know because that is the only way that the country can know the wrongdoings that are happening and stand up for it and so these two legislations are very very important for us to feel that the government is serious about doing what the need to do to get this country on the right path. If not when we give 10% it will be like going through the bottom of the bucket it will make no difference, it will be them getting for their purposes to do what they want but in the end the country will not benefit. This is not about PUP or UDP it’s about saving the country and the country is in a very bad state right now and we need to make sure that this is done and it is done right.”
And while Rodriguez wants monies to be returned to the public purse Branch President Gillet agrees saying this fight will also affect her personal purse.
Tanya Flowers-Gillett, BNTU President, Belize Branch: “Obviously you know if we’re out of the classroom obviously the government will dock our salaries.”
Reporter: But has that been confirmed ?
Tanya Flowers-Gillett, BNTU President, Belize Branch: “I am telling you we’re out of the classroom so obviously they will dock our salaries. It has been done in the past so.”
Reporter: Is the consensus among your teachers that they are willing to take this salary deduction ?
Tanya Flowers-Gillett, BNTU President, Belize Branch: “Well we’re out here, you saw what happened yesterday, we’re standing up and we have our purpose for our standing up.”
As to how long the teachers will strike Gillet says as long as they need to.
Tanya Flowers-Gillett, BNTU President, Belize Branch: “We’re going as long as we have to go. We’re going to stand as long as we have to stand.”