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#517536 - 09/15/16 11:01 AM Teachers Give GOB List of 7 Demands; PM Responds
Marty Offline

Teachers Give GOB List of 7 Demands; PM Responds

The teachers are ready to rumble, and today they put their teachers on notice. The union says it has a mandate of industrial action from its members and sent out a memo today urging them to wear their green t-shirts as part of an event called "Stand Up for Belize: Solidarity Stand".  And that's only a warm up for Monday when there will be a National Demonstration and Rally in Belmopan.
 Now all this stems from a letter the Union has written to the Prime Minister demanding good governance.  It contains 8 demands which the union, quote, "believes will ensure at the very least, that systems will be put in place to cultivate this good governance."  The union has given the PM until Friday to respond favourably to their letter and, quote, "in the absence of this response the Union intends to proceed with…industrial action." But even if the PM does respond favourably, the union is going ahead with the protest on Monday.  And if they don't get the response they want, the union says it has, quote, "planned a schedule of further Industrial Actions that our Union will not hesitate to engage in, post Monday but we await the PM's response to signal activation."
 What does that mean for your child's schooling?  Well that's what the Minister of Education asked the teachers to consider today. He called a press briefing to appeal to the teachers not to take any strike action because there is no dispute, and that the Government is already addressing the issues raised, with significant actions.

Hon. Patrick Faber - Deputy Prime Minister
"We have been hearing in fact that there are plans to have a rally to also possibly get to strike action which as I understand it should only come if there is some kind of labour dispute with the teachers. And I was told of a flyer although I confess I have not seen the flyer where the teachers have put out and says basically this is not about the 3% it is about all the other issues. Well the truth is the closest they can come to getting the issue of a labour dispute is that 3%, so if it is not about the 3% then it certainly is not about labour it is about these other points that they have put in the stand up for Belize campaign that they are saying they're going to continue on. The prime minister has subsequently written back to the BNTU."

"I believe that Mr. Palacio is politically motivated, I make no apologies for that. This man has been an operative of the PUP, has offered himself for candidacy for the PUP and it is what it is and that is why my appeal is not to him; my appeal is to the right thinking teachers out there who know that in fact there is no labour dispute afoot here and can also look at the facts. As you will see the prime minister outlined in his letter responding to the 8 points that the BNTU put forward; that these things are being addressed, it's not to say that we must all be happy, it's not to say that everything is right in the government. There are elements that we are not proud of and that in fact need be addressed but there is movement to address those issues. Every single aspect I think that they've raised in this letter to the prime minister, the prime minister is able to write back and to tell you of some movement that is going on to address the issue. So again my appeal is to the teachers and those teachers in fact who genuinely care about the students. My goodness this is the first month of school, the first two weeks of school and we already know of the many many distractions that come with the month of September it being such a festive month. To be calling off other days especially in the first week which we didn't agree with and please I don't want anybody to run away with the wrong impression; the government has no interest in threatening. The government in fact especially my ministry we wish to work amicably with the unions, the BNTU in particular."

So, we've gotten a look at that letter from the Prime Minister which Deputy Prime Minister Faber was referencing. Barrow has responded saying that each of their demands requires a more extensive explanation, which is better done in person, and that he is prepared to meet with the BNTU's Council of Management.

Their first demand was that the Government agrees to the appointment of the Senate Select Committee. As you would remember, the Government did that at yesterday's Cabinet meeting. The BNTU also asked for Godwin Hulse to be removed as the Minister of Police, which the Prime Minister says he cannot do because he has done nothing wrong in that Ministry, or in any other ministerial capacity. The Prime Minister assures the union that Godwin Hulse enjoys his full confidence. The second demand from the teachers is that an international investigation be conducted into the beheading of Pastor Llewelyn Lucas. The Prime Minister responds that they will need to clarify if they want an international investigation into the murder itself, or "apparent connection between sitting Government Ministers and Danny Mason," the man accused of masterminding that murder.
On demand number 3, the Prime Minister does not give any explanation, but he says that this issue is moot since it has already been agreed.

The 4th demand is that the Government appoint an Integrity Commission. We've already showed you the Prime Minister's position on why that commission is not appointed. That's because there is no chartered accountant who is willing to serve, due to the fact that he will be given the designation of a "politically exposed person", and the personal affairs of that accountant and his family will be subject to invasive scrutiny. The Prime Minister reminds the BNTU that the Chamber is locked in an exercise to try to get around that problem. The BNTU has also demanded that the Public Accounts Committee be reactivated to investigate public spending. Here the Prime Minister assures them that the PAC has been doing its job, and is properly appointed under the House Standing Orders. Deputy Prime Minister Faber told us that as soon as Julius Espat calls another meeting, the UDP members will be willing and ready to serve.

The other 4 demands appear to be related to the salary adjustment negotiations, and the Prime Minister responds saying that the course of action being followed is what was agreed to by the BNTU, the Public Service Union, and the Association of Public Service Senior Managers. 

The BNTU President has called a press conference in Corozal tomorrow, and we'll tell you about what their response is, and we'll give the president an opportunity to respond to Faber's accusation that their strike action is politically motivated.

Channel 7



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#517573 - 09/16/16 11:20 AM Re: Teachers Give GOB List of 7 Demands; PM Responds [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Tough Talking Teachers Reject PMís Response, Commit To Demonstration

On Monday, teachers from all over the country will converge on Belmopan to demonstrate against the Government, and the Ministry of Education says it will have to take action.

We'll tell you what the Ministry will do to keep schools open a little later, but, first, to the reasons for the demonstration. As we told you, the teachers don't want their salary adjustment deferred, but on the list of priorities, that's very far down. That's because they are demanding good governance from the Barrow Administration. With all the scandals that Government has faced this year, the teachers say that they have to stand up for Belize to make a statement against corruption of any kind.

As you saw last night, the Deputy Prime Minister, who's also the Minister of Education, made an impassioned plea to the teachers to stand down for the sake of the children. Well, this evening, we got an opportunity to speak with the National President in Corozal. He was there along with the Executive Secretary for an Annual General Meeting with the members of the Corozal Rural Branch of the union.

He was flanked by other senior members of the two Corozal Branch Unions, and he reiterated to us why they will not stand down on Monday's demonstration. Here's what he had to say about 2 hours ago:

Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.
"In relation to the demonstration we are having on Monday, it was not contingent on whether the Prime Minister responded by Friday or not. Our position is that on the 19th September, we are going to have a national demonstration in Belmopan. My friends the thing we are talking about, the things we are taking these actions upon and hoping that they will bring about good governance for this country - everybody knows it, everybody feels it every single day and so when individuals in the government will decide that they want to get the public on their side simply because as far as they are concern, they see nothing wrong. The masses of the Belizean people see what is wrong and at the end of the day the Belizean people will vindicate the union for standing up, because they've been clamoring for this for a long time, that we need somebody to stand up, somebody to speak up for us and we as the educators of this country are well suited to speak to those issues. You can ask the other officers here what they all have to go through as teachers in the classroom every day to ensure that our children are well taken care of."

Keisha Young, Executive Secretary - BNTU
"From the consolidated numbers that we got reported on Saturday, because we had on meeting on September 10th as you all know, from those numbers we can say that the turnout will be massive."

Lavern Pate, President, BNTU Corozal Town Branch
"In deed teachers do spend a lot of their money to facilitate students when they go to school. In the Corozal Town Branch my teachers they take out money to even feed the kids who doesn't go to school with breakfast in the morning and you know that if we don't eat we cannot function. So we do help our children although we are being bombarded right now that 'oh teachers don't care,' but we do. In the morning we are at school from 7:30am, we are their baby sitters. Parent drop them at the gate, the gates are open, they are our babies at that time until their parents pick them up at 11:30, take them for lunch and come back. So teachers do care for their students and parents do realize and appreciate what teachers do for their children."

Ministry Rings The School To Keep Classrooms Open On Monday

And while the teachers blasted the government today, the Government is blasting right back. In an effort to keep schools open on Monday - and to keep teachers away from the rally and demonstration, the Ministry of Educiaotn sent out a stern press release this evening. It says, quote, "in accordance with the Education Rules, Managing Authorities will take necessary measures to ensure that schools and institutions are kept open for classes and to ensure that there is safety for students and teachers present at a school or institution during the industrial action planned by the BNTU for this Monday." It goes unto say that school buses will run their normal schedules on Monday.

And the release also refers to the education rules where Rule 102 says, quote, "If a labour dispute results in industrial action by teachers or instructors, salaries and wages of persons undertaking such action may not be paid for any day or portion of a day during which they are on strike."

The very lengthy Ministry release also deals with the BNTU's list of demands, nothing that the Prime Minister responded to each one and that the PM wants to meet with the BNTU Council of Management.

The Ministry says, quote, "it is our considered view that the position of the BNTU as reflected in that statement is not only unreasonable, showing little regard for children's education and for inconvenience to them and their parents, but also a display of bad faith." End quote. And the ministry if even posting both the BNTU letter and the PM's response on the government website.

Union President Not Impressed With GOB Version of Senate Inquiry

We also asked the president about the Government backpedalling on the issue of allowing a Senate Probe to look into the Auditor General's reports on corrupt immigration practices.

He told us that he is not impressed because the composition should resemble what it was during the SSB and DFC inquiries of 2005. Here's how he explained why:

Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.
"It is common knowledge that whenever something of this magnitude happens in this country, the Prime Minister will make every effort to try and see how he can quell it but to his benefit. The constitution is clear. There should be a senate select committee to investigate those matters. Cabinet has decided that okay we go with the senate select committee. The constitution did not say that the cabinet is to decide if the senate select committee should be or not be. The constitution dictates that and now you note this morning for instance the Minister of Police was saying on another media house that they have to use the constitution in conjunction section 69 or 61 whatever it was in conjunction with some section 70 which says because of the composition of the senate that the government must have the majority on the senate select committee. And what they've done, they've said okay we are not saying that the government will end up with the majority you know, but they are saying that the government must have two government senators and the opposition has 1 senator along with the 3 social partners. So that the government is still outnumbered. That is not what happened in 2005 when they did the Social Security and the DFC senate inquiry. So why must it be different now? And that is the question and that again for the persons out there they may believe yea its true, that is the simple math. But why was it good back then and now it must be different when you are dealing with the same senate select committee to decide and investigate an impropriety that has been allege to happen?"

Is BNTU Sweating PUP Fever?

Earlier you heard the action that the Ministry will take in response to the Teachers Union's demonstration, and last night we showed you how Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber believes this to be a purely political exercise with no real grounds.

Today, we got a chance to ask BNTU President Luke Palacio for a response to the direct accusation from the DPM that he is leading the union into a cause for the Opposition. He dismissed that out of hand, reminding Faber that he once stood beside them back in 2005, even being roughed up by the police. Here are his comments:


Teachers, Is It All About The 3%

So, the bottom line is that - to hear the teachers tell it - the third tranche of their salary adjustment is the lowest priority for the planned demonstration Monday. But, money is always an issue, and as we showed you, while the BNTU is refusing the Prime Minister's request for a deferral to next year, the other two unions, the Public Service Union, and the Association of Public Service Senior Managers, have decided that they will agree to the deferral.

That's two-thirds of the union negotiating team which does not agree with them, and today we asked the President if that minority position has swayed them somewhat. He told us that it does not, and here's how he explained why:

Daniel Ortiz
"Since the other 2 unions has agreed to defer, does that have any weight with the BNTU, given that you are 1/3 of the negotiating team?"

Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.
"You must understand that BNTU is a independent entity. We are not contingent on whether PSU and APSSM accept it. It is not contingent on that and that's our position."

Channel 7


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#517597 - 09/17/16 11:22 AM Re: Teachers Give GOB List of 7 Demands; PM Responds [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

They Shall Not Be Moved, Teachers Hold Hardline With PM

So, what's his fix for the Teachers Union? As we showed you last night, they are not relenting on their stance against corruption in public life, and on Monday, the union will stage be a mass demonstration in Belmopan - which means many teachers will be out of their classrooms.

Today, the Prime Minister was careful not to put down the BNTU, but he said that he does not agree with their drastic action:

Rt., Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"While as I said I respect their right to strike, certainly it occurs to me that the issues agitated by that campaign do not constitute a labor dispute. I would therefore feel and go on record as saying that they should address those issues by way of demonstrations, by way of protests meetings, public ways of showing their discontent or concern. But they should not shutdown classes, they should not discontinue teaching our children. Precisely because, in any case, whatever the rationale for the teachers deciding to become militant, always we have to ask that the view as paramount the interest of the children. But especially because it appears that the concentration of their focus and effort is on these social issues, these political issues. I would ask that their response, that their mobilization, that their actions stop short of not teaching the children."

He also shared his opinion that their stance is political, but unlike his Deputy Prime Minister, Barrow stressed that he does not believe that they are following a PUP agenda:

Reporter
"Do you believe that this is politically motivated sir?"

Rt., Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"Not politically motivated in a partisan way; no. I will not say that. Look for me, you are not going to get anything said that can ever be interpreted as any disrespect for the B.N.T.U. I stand by my position that the strictly social and political issues raised in their letter - and I repeat not political in a partisan way, but they are political in the larger sense of the meaning of the word. I do stand by my position that those issues do not constitute a labor dispute and so there is a whole question of whether the strike legally is justified. But it is pointless to get into that because it will happen and there is nothing government wants to do to oblige the unions not to proceed in the way they are determined to go. We will see to persuade it. And we would hope that BNTU would not sacrifice that common preoccupation, that common urgent consideration on the alter of their political, not partisan, activity in pursuit of the demands they have made via their Stand up for Belize campaign."

Channel 7


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