The Executive District Branches of the Belize Teachers Union met in their respective areas over the weekend to decide whether they will proceed with strike action or continue their subtle forms of protest. The discussion is based on three points of contention that the union has been having with the Ministry of Education, namely, their vacation days; emergency hiring of teachers and the renewal of contracts. Today the Ministry of Education sent out a press release appealing to the teachers to not be misinformed and that for the amendments to be made to the Education Rules, a Statutory Instrument must be signed and that has certainly not been done. The release went on to state, quote, “There is no S.I. as yet. Any action in protest of what may be the content of the S.I. would be premature given the ongoing dialogue.” End of quote. As for the emergency staffing, the release noted that this is a policy already in place and the ministry is merely looking to put it as a rule. On the third point, the ministry seeks to have teachers with full licenses and over two years of service to not have to renew their contracts until every five years. Now, with those clarifications made by the Ministry, the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) sent out their response, calling out the ministry as being disingenuous. President of the union, Elena Smith, spoke with Love News late this evening.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “In terms of our putting out misinformation that is not so. Our information to our teachers was based on what was told to us at the meeting with the Ministry when we met on December 9th. We wrote to the Ministry after that meeting and we requested some clarifications. We just received a response from the Ministry on Thursday which is about a month after we had written to them to get some clarifications and nothing that is in their press release is what has been stated to us in terms of what they wrote in their response. So I don’t see how it is that they can be accusing us of putting out misinformation when we have proof to show otherwise.”
Smith went on to explain why the union is having issues with the three areas that the ministry seeks to amend.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “Our position remains in terms of the vacation period. Where the Ministry in its release is saying that we gave wrong information, the Ministry’s proposal is that they revoke the entire rule, 4,5 and 6, and replace it with one rule, that is what we have in writing from the Ministry their intention. Our position remains as it relates to our contract, we have said that in terms of making the contracts indefinite we are in agreement with that but there are other things that would affect our teachers ability to get a contract because the 120 CPD hours which we have not yet gotten to any decision. We have been very clear that teachers for next year must have their 120 CPD hours otherwise we will not be giving a renewal. There has been no other agreement, no other position placed before us beside that one so that is what is what we have to our members. In terms of the indemnity hiring our position remains the same and so all of our concerns along with other concerns that we had before remain that same.”
As it relates to the meetings held over the weekend, President Smith says the votes will remain as is.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “Our teachers have had their meetings and they had put forth their decisions in terms of what it is that they want us to do and so a press release from the Ministry saying that we are putting out misinformation did not change our teacher’s position any at all, as a matter of fact it might just add to it. We have not gotten the final tally from our branches and so we don’t want to put out any indication as yet until we have gotten the final results from our branches and then we can make a final determination.”
As Smith noted, the votes in each district are yet to be tallied. These votes will determine the way forward for the teachers. Love News is following the developments of this situation and will report to you accordingly.