Members of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) have voted, with the majority refusing to have their salaries cut as per the government’s proposal. The union’s council met with government officials yesterday in which a full explanation was given on the current economic situation. BNTU’s President Elena Smith told the media this evening that they had surveyed the views of its membership prior to going into that meeting. The outcome of that survey was a resounding no to the salary cuts.
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “Before we went into the meeting with the government we surveyed our members and we got from them recommendations, certain positions so that we would have been able to go into a meeting knowing that we had the support of our members with some of the things that we would have presented. So we took that to them and our members have said to us in our first survey that they are not in support of any salary cut so they have said that outright they cannot afford a salary cut at this time. We understand that the country yes is in a bad situation, but our teachers believe that there are other means or other measures that can be taken; as you said the cost saving and revenue enhancement measures that can be taken to assist the government in getting the necessary funds, so that has been their position. So what should happen now is that we the joint unions must present to government by Monday or on Monday our proposal or counter if you will, our counter proposal for what it is that they have given us and we will present that to them on Monday. Cabinet is going to be meeting on Tuesday and Cabinet will be reviewing our counter proposal and then they should be getting back to us with I guess whatever Cabinet decides on Tuesday when they review what we would have submitted and then from there what we get from them is what we will take back to our members and then get from them again this is what would possibly be, we’re not sure the final, and go back to our members and we go from there. We cannot go to the table and accept anything without our members giving us that mandate. And so if it is that there’s a change to that 10% then we have to take back to our members and we have to hear from our members on whether they will be willing to accept anything something less than 10. So if they are willing to accept something less than 10 then we can put that in that proposal. But up to this point they are saying that they’re not willing to accept a salary cut. Majority are saying no to salary cuts but they are willing to make other sacrifices but not a ten percent salary cut because we have to also recognize that some of our people are right now suffering themselves because they would have had a spouse who would have lost a job and so they have gone now from two salaries and two incomes in their homes to now just one and for you to take ten percent of what I am getting it might sound like a little bit to some people but for them it’s a lot.”
A joint proposal is currently being drafted and is expected to be submitted to the government by Monday, March 15. According to the First Vice President of the Public Service Union, Dean Flowers, they have sounded the call to its members to activate its solidarity stance. That call begins tomorrow with the wearing of yellow.
Dean Flowers, First Vice President, PSU: “The call for yellow on Friday is merely symbolic to show solidarity and unity in that we are all in this together. We have engaged in consultation over the last five, six days with our members and the message has been a resounding no for increment freezes and the salary cut. And so we now have to package response along with alternative suggestions to government and other requests where we believe steps can be taken to strengthen the system under which we govern and operate and so that is in essence why we’re making this call to let members know that we will be making a presentation to you and on your behalf, and we will need you to be united and we will need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder when we present these proposals to the government and we will need to be sing from one voice. And so the call to wear yellow is essentially that, a call for unity and solidarity with the Union.
BNTU’s Elena Smith said that if a lower than ten percent is offered she would still have to go back to the union membership for approval. She added that the BNTU has also made the call for teachers to wear green starting tomorrow. There is more to share with you from these unions later on in this newscast; but first we go to other union business.