The BNTU wants the Churches to pay up
Members of the Joint Union’s negotiation team, which comprises members of the Public Service Union (PSU) and the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), held a press conference where they took aim at the Government, the Churches, and several issues facing Belizeans. Tonight, the BNTU is demanding that the churches begin to pay up. In grant-aided or church-run schools, 70% of teachers’ pensions are paid by GOB and 30% are to be paid by the managing authorities (churches). But, according to the BNTU National President, Elena Smith, in recent years the churches have not been keeping up their end of the bargain. Smith explained that for years the churches have not been paying teachers their full pension and have claimed they don’t have the money to do so. She says that the union has had enough and are now calling now GOB to ensure the churches begin to pay up.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “Minister Henry Usher said to us in the meeting that the churches simply cannot afford to pay these teachers, that they don’t have the money. Now you own a school, you have employees and you know what are your responsibilities and you don’t prepare for thirty five years down the road when a teacher is going to retire and then the government will say to us “Oh but they don’t have any money. They can’t afford it.” All of us give collection and those same teachers have to fundraise at their schools to be able to assist their schools. So what are we doing with those monies ? Have those schools been audited ? How do we know that they don’t have the funds ? Did you go and audit them ? And did you get a true picture of what they can and cannot afford to do ? Yet you want to throw on our teachers that “you know what they can’t afford.”. If it is that you believe and you know and you have seen that they can’t afford and you’re sorry for them then you take up their slack. You find the monies and you pay our teachers because at the end of the day they must be paid. And it’s not just our teachers it’s the support staff, those persons who also work at these schools along with these teachers who help to make sure that these schools are functioning. BNTU continues to say that this is one matter we will not give up on. We will fight to the bitter end to ensure that our teachers get what they rightfully deserve. Fourteen years is a long time but going home with nothing is worse than fourteen years. Going home with 30% less with the cost of living right now is worse than waiting another two months. So we are looking at concluding this matter before the end of this school year because not another teacher must go home and have to be fighting to get his or her well earned 30%.”