The union leaders appeared on the Open Your Eyes show this morning explaining the rationale behind the continued strike action. According to the President of the Belize National Teachers Union, Elena Smith, last Thursday’s meeting was to finalize and sign upon an agreement they had taken back to their union members. She said the union leaders were taken aback when the Prime Minister presented a different offer last week.
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “You already told us yes. We went to our members, we get them to approve and we were coming back with approval on the last proposal so in our view Thursday’s meeting was just to have been to hear Cabinet’s decision on the promissory note because we already had an affirmative position from our members and if both sides were on the same page then that could have been the last meeting where we would have finalized all of those agreements only to come back to the table to find out that those things that they had said to us “Yes we are in agreement with.” they came back and said “Well no we’re not going to be doing that.” So when our members were amenable to those things it put us all the way back again because we have to now go back and we have to go back now with really and truly an empty hand where we had already gone to them with these proposals to say “Government has accepted these, they are ready to take these so we are good with this.” and our members were satisfied with that. It’s a different story now so it’s like we’re starting all over again based on the decision that they made at their last meeting. You say we are going through these “good faith” negotiations, discussions, consultations and you get to a point where you are saying “This is it. I will not talk anymore, I will not do anymore.” then clearly it’s a reflection on you and the type of leader that you to get to that point where you are just dictating to people and saying “This is it we won’t talk anymore about this.” Is that the kind of leadership that we want to see for our country and is that the way that a government should be dealing with unions within the country. We play a key role in our democracy and to have a government who will come to you and say “Listen we won’t talk with you anymore that’s it.” knowing that as Brother Henry said you were the one that changed the goal post then really and truly that is not a reflection on us that is a reflection on them.”
President for the APSSM, Sharon Frazer, explained that contrary to some belief, the unions are not being spiteful. She noted that it would have been ideal if the Prime Minister was part and parcel of the negotiations.
Sharon Frazer, President, APSSM: “We are not here to undermine his administration or the government because in doing so we basically would be undermining ourselves. We are here to make this work. We’re here to see how we can go forward. It is not that dealing with members are not always the easiest thing. Each of us have our own opinions but as I’ve said when we represent bodies we have to go with the collective of what the members are saying.”
As for the President of the Public Service Union (PSU) Gerald Henry, he went even further by accusing the government of constantly moving the goal post. It is an allegation that has been fired at the unions in recent weeks as they had shifted focus from the ten percent salary cut to the issue of good governance.
Gerald Henry, President, NTUCB: “If the government keeps moving the line in the sand that was only effective in the beginning where our public officers or members felt as if though were not taking back the information to them and we were essentially being untruthful and so on but I think that since the government has repeatedly done this several times now the majority of our membership has realized that it is not the case that we are not taking back the information it’s simply the case that the government keeps redrawing the line in the sand. And so all that is happening currently at least I can speak maybe from my perspective is that only the mischief makers now and those who have political biases are the ones who are trying to use this to cause trouble but I think that the majority of our membership has realized that this is not an issue that our leaders are not bringing back the information to us it’s simply that the government keeps drawing again in the sand and all it does is that it increases the level of distrust that has already been so extremely high over the past decades with our politicians and it does not help the situation. As sister Elena mentioned a while ago I believe myself that we were at certain points very very close to achieving an agreement and then out of nowhere there comes the government changing the position again.”