As has ben reported, the membership of the Belize National Teachers Union has agreed to stage a massive demonstration in Belmopan on Monday. And while initially teachers were unhappy that Government had requested that their three percent salary adjustment be deferred to April of next year, now they say it is so much more. They are demanding good governance from the Barrow Administration. Yesterday after a branch meeting in Orange Walk District, the President of the Orange Walk BNTU Branch, Otilio Munoz spoke on the matter.
“This negotiation is long overdue, all the protocols and the procedures have been followed this salary adjustment was signed prior to hurricane Earl and if you look at that even the legality of that because it was a signed document and it we just needed to fix up our salary pay scale and everything so why, and another factor that has our members mad is the sacrifice of the deferral; when they are expected to sacrifice what about the Ministry and government sacrifice. So you are asking party to sacrifice but the other will not. So that is something that the members saw it really out of order and really wrong and that is what had them to act this way that they need to be serious and apart from that its not only the salary adjustment that has the teachers really mad at what is going on in our country, the national issues as well. They know it and we know it because the media is constantly updating the population that this is what is happening in our country and one of the biggest one of concern is our identity as Belizeans. I want to use, you are prostituting our identity because people no longer believe in the identity of a Belizean anymore and it is so sad that our country has gotten to this point. We have a lot of our teachers that want to travel abroad, it’s not easy now because even the United States is looking at Belize’s passport and really scrutinize it. So it is of great concern.”
In his response to the Union’s letter, Prime Minister Dean Barrow requested a meeting with the Union’s council of management for sometime next week. National President of the BNTU, Luka Palacio says they are prepared to meet with PM Barrow but the negotiations have to be just.
“That is what negotiations are all about but it cannot be one sided, it cannot be the Prime Minister who ever we are to meet and negotiate and decide that they are going to be intransigent.”
One of the demands that the union made was to have a Senate Select Committee be appointed to investigate the Auditor General’s Special Report to which the Prime Minister responded that Government has already agreed to that. However, the composition of the committee remains a controversial point. The union is asking that Senator for Government Business Godwin Hulse be excluded from all processes of the inquiry and be removed as Police Minister. The Prime Minister’s response to that demand was quote “I cannot agree to the removal of Senator Hulse as Police Minister as he has done nothing wrong in that, or any other ministerial, capacity. In fact, he enjoys my full confidence”, end of quote. In a recent press conference, PM Barrow also stated that he does not support Senator Mark Lizzaraga to Chair the committee. Palacio spoke on this matter.
“We cannot answer why the Prime Minister doesn’t want senator Lizarraga on the committee but it goes to show you the extent to which our democracy is failing. There are rules that govern how we are governed in this country, there is a senate that is appointed by the respective bodies and if the Prime Minister believes that he is all powerful and that he can just decide who will be what then all of us in Belize need to be weary because that is wrong and we are not going to stand by idle and see that continue to happen.”
Government has expressed support for a social partner senator to chair the community and since Prime Minister Barrow clearly does not want Senator Lizarraga to chair the committee the only other social partners left for consideration is Elena Smith who is representing the trade unions and civil society and Senator Ashley Rocke who represents the churches. Smith’s appointment has come under scrutiny as union members say that Smith was placed there illegally. As for Senator Rocke, he recently came under fire by some leaders of the churches he represents for not voting in favor of a senate inquiry in the Auditor General report.