Dozens of buses are expected to roll into the old capital tomorrow for a massive demonstration called for by the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB). As many as ten unions will be marching in solidarity with the NTUCB as they call on the Government to meet six demands put forth via a press conference on Monday, February 17. Those six demands include the implementation of campaign finance legislation; the completion of the first phase of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) as well as the implementation of its second phase; the tabling of the Senate Inquiry Report on the Immigration and Nationality Departments and the convictions of those who acted illegally; the restructuring of the Integrity Commission and the Public Accounts Committee as well as the levying of penalties against those who acted in contravention of the Finance and Audit Reform Act and the launch of an independent investigation into the alleged wrongdoings by John Saldivar and other named officials and individuals. It is a hefty list of demands and will require money, time and human resources; most importantly it will require the will of the Government to meet the unions’ demands. That will, however, is yet to be expressed as the NTUCB is still waiting for a response from the Government. Some of the major unions joining in tomorrow’s demonstration include the Christian Workers Union (CWU), the Public Service Union (PSU) and the Belize Energy Workers Union (BEWU).
Dean Flowers, Public Relations Committee Chairman, Public Service Union: “Our position is that the challenges that public officers are experiencing stems from corruption for the most part and so these six demands are tied to corruption and so we have no other platforms that we would like to list on those six on which we would wish to demonstrate as the challenges that we are experiencing stems from those six platforms.”
Marvin Mora, Assistant General Secretary, National Trade Union Congress of Belize: “The Union itself realizes the need because we did a canvasing of our membership when we also were canvasing for our collective bargaining process for proposals. During that time the president made a presentation and explained the need for us to support the NTUCB with the UNCAC position that they had placed forward and the members wholeheartedly and unanimously supported that position. So tomorrow the participation will be for those members who can get time off from the employer or if they can get a day off like vacation or something like that. So that will be that level of participation but the support is there.”
Evan Mose Hyde, President, Christian Workers Union: “We are marching under the umbrella of the NTUCB. As far as the demands go we definitely believe that that’s a start. We wouldn’t want it to be a process where it is frozen, we believe that it can be developed, we believe that it can be fine tuned. I think there has to be a process where there is broader input and I think there’s a lot of people that when you open up a process like this who have advice, who have expertise and have an idea of how we can effectively implement changes that strengthen our quality of governance and strengthen the very ecosystem out of which governance operates.”
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “Yes we are onboard and we support the demands that they are asking for but in addition to that you know that we have our own internal issues with BNTU as our ministry and so those two will be what we are going to be marching for as well. The matters that our teachers had raised with us some time ago that we met with the Ministry that we have not had full resolutions as yet so those will be included as well.”
According to the President of the NTUCB, Marvin Mora, who also serves as the Assistant General Secretary for the BEWU, they are expecting to have a showing of at least one thousand demonstrators. Evan Mose Hyde of the CWU says it is important for union members to understand the cause and participate. As for the BNTU President Elena Smith, she explained that in addition to the six demands, their union is currently battling with other issues with the Ministry of Education.
Dean Flowers, Public Relations Committee Chairman, Public Service Union: “I think it’s important to note that the results of the NTUCB having taken the decision to demonstrate started primarily because the PSU took a stand against the decision that came out of Cabinet last week whereby the Minister was only suspended and our view was that he ought not to be suspended but rather he ought to have been fired and I think that following our release on that matter we further wrote to the NTUCB to say we need to do something and I’m glad to know that the other affiliate unions felt the same way.”
Evan Mose Hyde, President, Christian Workers Union:“I can’t speak for the government. I can speak to what I wish to come out. I wish that there is a strong representation of people power and we wish that it really resonates with our leaders and aspiring leaders for them to understand that there is the need for them to hear and feel the pulse of the people and get a sense that they have reached a point where they don’t want the same old, they want something that is real and something that is going to manifest itself in changes. That we stop doing this round and round and round and round but we actually create stable ground from which we can genuinely move as a nation to a better place.”
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “If you recall some of those things that are on there are things that BNTU had raised in 2016. For example the UNCAC, the Integrity Commission, the PAC, all of those things are things that we raised as well BNTU had called for the Minister’s resignation in 2016 as well. That didn’t happen and so we’re at again at a point again where the Minister’s name has been called , he has been trying to clear his name but all that are on that list we support and we fully support the matter of the campaign financing as well because we note that that is an important matter that if that is put in place it will help a lot with what is going on and hat we see happening in our nation. So we fully support those.”
Smith of the BNTU appealed to the nation to understand the magnitude and importance of what the unions are fighting for as the issues will affect generations to come.
Evan Mose Hyde, President, Christian Workers Union:“I can’t speak to expectations. I believe that every person has the power to decide whether or not they are going to stand up for a better Belize and for strengthening of the protection of what belongs to Belize. I think it’s a tremendous responsibility that is at an individual level. A union can do it’s best to utilize it’s network of reps to make sure that they’re aware of what is going on and they understand what it means but from moving out your house and going into a demonstration that really requires your personal deliberation, meditation and we hope that you have the guidance and you have that consciousness, and you have the vision and you make the right decision. I don’t believe in expectations, I believe in working towards achieving the objectives.”
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union:“If it is that those aspiring politicians and those persons in government refuse to realize that the issues that we are raising are not issues that are personal to anybody or any party or so that is for the betterment of this nation then we expect that for now those in government will find it necessary to have a sit down with the NTUCB and try to chart a way forward as to how
The demonstration starts at 9am from the Constitution Park on Cemetery Road in Belize City and will end with a rally at the Memorial Park. Love News will have LIVE coverage on radio, television and social media throughout the event.