The powerful Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) is also polling its members as negotiation with the government continues; but National President, Senator Elena Smith says the teachers are soundly against a salary cut. In fact, one branch is planning to make its sentiments known on Wednesday. Teachers in Stann Creek have organized a motorcade to protest the proposed salary cut and increment freeze. Smith says that while teachers understand that the country is in a difficult situation, they cannot and are not willing to suffer a salary cut.
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “Well the first reaction has bee “No” to salary cuts point blank and I can’t say it any other way. Our teachers are saying at at this point in time they cannot afford any salary cuts whatsoever. We understand that the country is in a serious situation and our teachers are concerned that you know what it’s a bit unfair because we did not create this situation but we have to be the ones to suffer it seems for those decisions that were made on our behalf. And so while I cannot go into any further discussions or reporting on what would be or what are the other recommendations I know for sure that initially that has been the first reaction. All of those recommendations that you could possibly think of in terms of how we could help the economy to be better those were shared with the government officials. We have not yet taken a position, we are still as I said in the consultation process but our teachers have been saying that there are lots of things that the government could do to look at enhancing revenue and saving on expenses and they are hoping that the government would probably look at those things, consider them seriously before making any other decisions and so again as we meet tomorrow we will be compiling what those recommendations are from our teachers and we are going to be presenting them once more to the officials side and then we go from there.”
According to Senator Smith, it is unfair for the teachers and public officers to financially suffer further because of the economic situation.
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “Teachers have to provide almost everything for the classroom out of pocket and so that is a huge concern because if my salary is being concern because if my salary is being cut by whatever percent that is eight, five, seven, ten, whatever it is it would mean that as a teacher I would have less to put into my classroom to be able to teach my students and so we have to look at all of those things. Recall that the persons paid by government does not only include teachers and public officers, we have other groups BDF, police you know all of those who are also paid by government and those persons will be affected. Now how much of those persons who are paid by government could really and truly afford a cut, whatever amount that is going to be and what would be the ripple effect of that on the economy because if I have less I spend less correct ? And so how would that impact then businesses, how would that impact the growth of the economy if that were to happen so again as I said while I cannot get into any details as yet in terms of what it is we would be willing to accept and be willing to negotiate we know from initial response from our teachers that they’re definitely not at this point in time – and I’m not sure if they will ever be – in favor of any salary cuts.”
The BNTU has issued a survey, asking its members to express their sentiments about GOB’s proposed salary cuts.
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “In the survey we asked one question “What are you prepared to do.” or what actions are you prepared to take because again we have to when we meet to discuss these things as a union we have to know what our members are thinking. They are the ones who tell us what we should do and so instead of going back to them over and over to say “Okay so what action ?” we tried to put as many things as we can put in that one survey so that when we have responses there’s no need for us to return hopefully to them right away but we would have something that we could sit and discuss and we’d have sort of a leeway in which we can make decisions based on what they have responded to us. So what would be something normal that we would ask them you know “What kind of action are you willing to take ?” they may say none, they may give you certain industrial actions, they may say things that would not affect what it is they are doing in any significant way we’re not sure but we gave them that option to give us a sense of direction in terms of what they are willing to do.”
Budget consultation meetings continue tomorrow.