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#517830 - 09/26/16 05:17 AM BNTU says GOB proposal “not good enough”  
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Following a meeting with Prime Minister Dean Barrow on Thursday, the Belize National Teacher’s Union (BNTU) has decided to continue taking industrial actions against the Government of Belize, citing dissatisfaction with GOB’s response to their demands.

The BNTU, in a letter following the meeting, told Prime Minister Dean Barrow that the offers he made were “inconsistent” with their list of demands. The BNTU then outlined its demands and a range of responses to the offers that the Prime Minister had made.

With respect to their demand for a specific configuration of the Senate Select Committee to investigate incidents of wrongdoing cited in the Auditor General’s Special Audit Report of the Immigration and Nationality Department, the BNTU said that the offer was “not favorable;” and added that his response to their request for the removal of Godwin Hulse as the Minister of Police was “too vague.”

The Union also took issue with Barrow’s response to their other demands, such as GOB implementing recommendations made by the Cost Saving Committee, an amendment to the Social Security Act to include coverage to and from work, and the passing of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Bill. The BNTU said the responses either needed expedition, stronger commitment, or more urgent attention.

The only point that the Union found favorable was the inclusion of the unions in the ongoing review of tax reforms.

“The BNTU serves notice to the Government of Belize that we intend to pursue all necessary actions in the furtherance of our cause that has the betterment of Belize as its primary focus.” The BNTU said.

Barrow and the unions met on Thursday, after the BNTU caused a countrywide shutdown of school son Monday as a part of their “Stand up for Belize” campaign.

PM asks BNTU to call off strike

Prime Minister Dean Barrow, in response to a correspondence with the Belize National Teacher’s Union (BNTU) on pending strike action, made a public appeal for the Union to not shut schools down again.

Barrow explained today that the government met with the BNTU on numerous occasions in an attempt to address their concerns and added that he has granted them up to 75 percent of their demands.

The Prime Minister also told the nation that the BNTU is not operating in good faith, ignoring the views of all other social partners, which have agreed with GOB on many of the issues of good governance that the BNTU raised in its demands.

“The BNTU leadership is being unreasonable. They are utterly unjustified in holding parents and children to ransom,” Barrow said.

Barrow also emphasized that the BNTU’s decision to strike has nothing to do with the differal of their three percent salary adjustment, because the Union did not even raise the issue at its last meeting.

Following a meeting with Prime Minister Dean Barrow on Thursday, the BNTU told the PM that it decided to continue taking industrial actions against the government, citing dissatisfaction with GOB’s response to their demands.

The BNTU then outlined its demands and a range of responses to the offers that the Prime Minister had made. With respect to its demand for a specific configuration of the Senate Select committee to investigate incidents of wrongdoing cited in the Auditor General’s Special Audit Report of the Immigration and nationality Department, the BNTU said that his offer was “not favorable;” and added that his response to their request for the removal of Godwin Hulse as the Minister of Police was “too vague.”

The Union also took issue with Barrow’s response for their other demands, such as GOB implementing recommendations made by the Cost Saving Committee, and an amendment to the Social Security Act to include coverage to and from work, the passing of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Bill. The BNTU gave criticisms that the responses either needed expedition, needed stronger commitment, or needed more urgent attention.

The only point that the Union found favorable was the inclusion of the unions in the ongoing review of tax reforms.

“The BNTU serves notice to the Government of Belize that we intend to pursue all necessary actions in the furtherance of our cause that has the betterment of Belize as its primary focus,” The BNTU said.

Barrow and the unions met on Thursday, after the BNTU caused a countrywide shutdown of schools on Monday as a part of its “Stand up for Belize” campaign.

The Reporter


PM Statement on BNTU Negotiations


BNTU Benque Branch:

A pleasant good night members, I know that you have been wondering what is the outcome of our hours of meeting with the PM on Thursday. First let me inform you that as the PM started speaking he pointed out that our meeting has nothing to do with the salary deferral because our union had lost as out of the three unions 2 voted yes and 1 voted no so the majority wins. Our meeting was to discuss the 8 points I presented to you in our last general meeting. He went point by point. We are going over it in detail at our AGM on Wednesday the 28. But what we got was palabras so after the meeting we went back to the office to prepare a plan of action. First a letter was written to him to give us all his promises in black and white and a time frame when it will be accomplished. As he kept telling us that he cannot compromise as he has to take it to cabinet to be approved. The cabinet will be meeting on Tuesday so we expect to get an answer from him by Thursday. If he cannot come with any favorable answer then we are going to implement our plan of action which I will not disclose here in the web but the membership will be informed in the meeting. I continue to ask for your support to this matter till the end.. It is not an easy task cause we know that the PM is trying to frustrate us so that all members get discourage and at the end no change will happen. We need to keep united. Solidarity. President

#517850 - 09/27/16 04:41 AM Re: BNTU says GOB proposal “not good enough” [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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Teachers Reject PM’s Proposals; Prepare For a Monday Oct. 3 Strike, PM Strikes First

Next week Monday, the teachers will strike again, which more-than-likely means that classes will be canceled.

That's the outcome of last Thursday's four and a half hour meeting between the Prime Minister and the leadership of the Belize National Teachers Union. 18 hours after it was done, the teachers wrote back to the PM saying, "no deal!"

In a letter dated, Friday, September 23, BNTU President Luke Palacio wrote, quote "...We find that most of what you brought to the table is inconsistent with our demands to ensure good governance and respect for workers." End quote.

Palacio's letter directly addresses the Prime Minister's offerings on all 8 of their demands. They say that the Prime Minister's counter-offer to put one less Government's representative on the Senate Select Committee is "not favorable".

And on their request to remove Godwin Hulse as Police Minister, the BNTU says the Prime Minister's response is "too vague". They also say that the Prime Minister's response to the union's request for an international investigation into the William "Danny" Mason case is an "unreasonable suggestion".

They are willing to accept his proposals on the revival of cost saving and revenue enhancement committees. But, on the activation of a fully functioning Integrity Commission and Public Accounts Committee, the Appointment of the 13th Senator, and the signing of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the BNTU says that Government either needs to expedite those, or show a stronger commitment to them.

On the issue amending the Social Security Act and the passage and implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Bill, they say those points need "urgent attention", or that the Government's counter-offer is "too binding".

The letter to the Prime Minister ends, "...The BNTU serves notice…that we intend to pursue all necessary actions in furtherance to our cause that has the betterment of Belize as our primary focus".

Very ominous, and it sent the Barrow Government scrambling to start making contingency plans. The Prime Minister even recorded a weekend statement to address the impasse directly. We have excerpts of that for you, along with Palacio's comments to the press from today. Here's what they both had to say:

Rt. Hon Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"We have reached a stalemate with the leadership of the Belize National Teachers Union, and now they are threatening to close down the schools, leaving children without classes, and parents desperate. Now, I had already attempted to address the demands in my response letter to them, of September 14, and I made further efforts to do so in last Thursday's meeting. But, the BNTU leadership proved unyielding, and after the meeting, they summarily rejected Government in under 18 hours, despite promising to consult with their wider membership."

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"Understand that the membership has the Council the authority to go and discuss, and negotiate on its behalf, and that is exactly what our Council of Management is doing. They Prime Minister goes to the House of Representatives, passes a law - proposes a law, and passes it in the 3 readings, in less than an hour. So 18 hours is enough."

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow
"I therefore urge the BNTU, and I am here appealing to the wider membership - and not just the Council of Management - to call off this destructive crusade."

Luke Palacio
"So, the Prime Minister's appeal to the wider membership of BNTU, as far as we are concerned, is a tactic at divide and conquer, and you will not - he will not divide and conquer the BNTU."

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow
"Government has had multiple meetings with the Churches and other unions, and reason, and Government's compromise prevailed in all those discussions, its leadership, therefore, needs to return to the negotiating table. So, that we might also strike a balance between their demands, and the interests of the larger society, especially the children and their parents."

We have since learnt that the Ministry of Education has scheduled a meeting with the general managers, the secondary school principals, the School Board Chairs on Wednesday in Belize City. The purpose of that meeting is quote, "…discuss the actions to be taken by the BNTU...and make plans to ensure that classes are not disrupted."

We'll be there to try to get comment from those school managers.

Bigger Than School? The Teachers’ Union Frames Its Larger Social Obligation

So, on social media, and on their own UDP media house, the Government's agents are on a full-court offensive against Luke Palacio, and the BNTU's Council of Management. They're insisting that Palacio and those branch leaders are pursuing a PUP agenda.

Perhaps preparing for the backlash, Palacio launched his own offensive when he appeared on the labour-friendly KREM TV's "Wake Up Belize" Morning talk show. He was there to make BNTU's case to the listeners and viewers, explaining why theirs a morally righteous fight on behalf of the Belizean public.

When he came off the air, he also told us why losing classroom hours is not a case of the union trying to be unfair to you or your children.

Here's how he explained it:

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"We listened to the Prime Minister's address to the Nation, and we have countered most of what he had said. We're asking this nation to be focused, to remain focused. Don't be misled. We are seeking for good governance for all Belizeans. We are seeking good governance for our children. We're seeking good governance for the future of this country, and we are not going to back down because the Prime Minister has insisted that we back down. We have indicated that we are asking our teachers to stay out of class on Monday, October 3, and that is the action that we are pursuing. We are also hoping that the other social partners will find it within themselves for us to come and meet. Let us sit down and discuss because the issues we are raising are issues that they too have raised. And when the Prime Minister makes his effort - or attempts - to try and divide and conquer the different social partners, the different organizations in this country, then it is a sad day for this country. When you speak of unity, when he speaks that he wants people to be united in support of his party and his agenda, yet he wants to come now and try divide this nation, divide persons who are feeling the pinch of what is going on in this country, then it is time for all of us as Belizeans, if you truly love Belize, we are going to do what it takes to right what is wrong. We're all going to come together to ensure that the mantra that the BNTU is standing up for "Stand Up for Belize" and for good governance, we know. Belizeans in general know that we are not on the right track. We are not - our country is not going down the right road. Our country needs to be brought back."

PM and Pres. Palacio Spar

As you would remember, we tried last week Thursday night to find out from both sides why the meeting lasted for over 4 hours. Neither side was willing to do that, but when the Prime Minister received their letter announcing that they intend "to pursue all necessary action", it was like the gloves came off.

In his almost 10-minute address, the Prime Minister was not restrained when he disclosed how at times in the extended meeting, he became frustrated by the teachers, who refused to give any ground. We also got an opportunity to ask Palacio about a few of those criticisms. Here again are both sides of this subject:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"Their first demand was for a Senate Inquiry, but they were not satisfied when Government agreed to this. Rather, they started quarrelling with the composition of the Senate Select Committee that Government was support. In order to accommodate them even further, I accepted that Government would have 2 rather than 3 Senators, on that committee. They had first said this was okay, but then, insisted on coming back to the matter, after we had moved on. They then rejected what we had already agreed, and demanded, instead, that the Opposition have equality with the Government, on that Select Committee, notwithstanding that the Senate Standing Orders provide otherwise. This inflexible attitude governed the entirety of the meeting, and there was nothing I could do to get through. This is the backstory which causes me to repeat that the BNTU leadership is being unreasonable. They are utterly unjustified in holding parents to ransom, even when as much as 75% of their political demands have been met."

Luke Palacio - National President
"Did he not come out of the meeting saying that it was a productive meeting, and then now, he's saying that we're intolerable? He never said that to us then. We laid our positions to him right there in the meetings, where we were not agreeing with some of the things he was proposing, and so, I don't know that that now means that we are intolerable. Because, we need to understand, that it seems that unless it is the Prime Minister's way, then it is no way, and we as Belizeans need to understand, we have the power. The power of the people is greater than the people in power."

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow
"This administration decisively won free and fair elections less than a year ago. Our mandate is to govern, and we must do so fairly, and effectively. We will continue with just that, trying to set right whatever has gone wrong, and listening to people, including the BNTU. But, our democratic duty to proceed with governance, and good governance, is one entrusted to us by a sovereign electorate. It cannot be usurped by any one entity."

Luke Palacio
"This piecemeal appeasing of this group, as oppose to not appeasing another group, so that you can get them on your side, that needs to stop. Because once that problem, or that appeasement is done, then, you cannot, or should not comment negatively about the other things. We are saying collectively, those eight points speaks to good governance, speaks to accountability, and speaks to transparency, speaks to a better Belize, and that is where we stand."

From Tranquil Talk On Thursday to Sharp Exchanges On Monday

So, how did we get to this place of hard words and strike actions? Well, it is unclear, but with the up until last week, it appeared outwardly, that the teachers and the Prime Minister were trying their very best to play nice with each other.

Here's a small recap of all that cordial speech from both leaders, from last Thursday night. That's when we were trying to probe for more than they were willing to give at the time:

File: September 22, 2016
Luke Palacio - BNTU, President

"We are now prepared to go back and discussed those responses and then determine what happens next."

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"Is the council of management satisfied with those responses?"

Luke Palacio - BNTU, President
"You didn't understand what I said just now? I said we are going back to discuss the responses, so we cannot tell you that we are satisfied and neither are we saying that we are not satisfied, but we have a process and we keep on saying to the media, the BNTU has a process that it follows and you'll have to allow us to make that process work."

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"How was the atmosphere of the meeting?"

Luke Palacio - BNTU, President
"Cordial. We were not here to fight."

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"Sir, what were the most contentious point that extended the meeting to this time?"

Luke Palacio - BNTU, President
"There were no contentious points. The discussions were just long. We had to ventilate all that we want ventilated and we've done so."

Rt., Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"Well nobody could ever have doubted that the teachers were serious. These are serious people and so that is why the minute examination of each concern was absolutely necessary. That was done and I believe that it was a useful process and now we shall see what we shall see."

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"Are you bracing for more demonstrations after this meeting?"

Rt., Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"I wouldn't say that we are bracing for more demonstrations."

Today, COLA, released a statement scolding the UDP Government for the offensive launched against the BNTU leadership.

The call it "union busting", and their press release says, quote, "the Prime Minister…clearly attempts to create division within the BNTU and between the unions and social partners... We find it ludicrous that the man who promoted "civil disobedience"... while in Opposition, will now accuse teachers of being unreasonable and holding the children of Belize at ransom." End quote.

The PUP also sent out a statement today saying, quote, "The...Party affirms its support for the BNTU and for our teachers, and condemns the unreasonable and vicious attacks on the Union and its members by this UDP Government... We also ask all parents to stand strong behind the BNTU. It is important that our children learn to stand up for what is right and just. The government's accusation that the teachers are holding our children to ransom is baseless and a sign of desperation..." End Quote.

The opposition also calls on, quote, "the membership of the PSU, the APSSM, the umbrella NTUCB and the social partners to join in the fight for our country."

Channel 7

#517876 - 09/28/16 04:33 AM Re: BNTU says GOB proposal “not good enough” [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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BNTU President Says Teacher’s One-Day Strike Could Turn Into a Longer Shutdown

In last night's news, we spoke to the president of the Teachers Union who said that teachers countrywide will strike next week. We also framed the war of words between the BNTU President and the Prime Minister, who made a plea to the teachers not to listen to the call of their union, because it will force a shutdown of classes.

Well, preliminary indications are that next week's strike could go for more than one day. That's what President Luke Palacio told the media in San Ignacio this afternoon after he had met with the Union branch from that town. Palacio said that the teachers from San Ignacio are suggesting that it be extended, and that recommendation will be taken onboard with the Council of Management:

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"Our members here in San Ignacio, today they were very vocal about their position and they are saying that they don't believe that they want the strike action to be only for one day. We are going to take back all of these recommendations to our council, because we intend to have a council meeting before the week is out and those matters will be discussed. But we need to also point out very importantly that we cannot go out there today and say that we are going to be on strike for any period of time, simply because we don't want for those that would try and say well okay, we will see how long they can hold out, or they have given us an indication and therefore we don't need to worry. This is what we are saying to our members. Every day we will update them as to what the situation is like and how we proceed."

He also told the media about his meeting with the other social partners. As you heard last night, he accused the Prime Minister of shuttling between the unions so that he could appease them one by one, a tactic Palacio calls divide and conquer. Well, last night, Palacio and his crew met with representatives of those social partners, and he gave his account of those meetings:

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"The objective of the meeting was for us to provide to those bodies our side of the story if you will, as it relates to a rebuttal on what the Prime Minister had said in his video. So the letter that we had sent to the Prime Minister with the response was presented, copies were issued and we were able to explained point for point why the response we gave or the reason for the different responses we gave. And we made it absolutely clear to those present that we did not expect them last night to say how much support they are going to give, what the type of support is, because in some instances we know they have to go back to the organizations to determine what form of support they will give, but generally speaking, there was support from those present in terms of yes. These are national issues. They are important issues and we should be able to weigh in."

And as we've told you, the Barrow Government is also on its own public campaign to shut this strike down before it takes root. Well, today, Palacio had a putdown for the Government for all the money it is spending on advertisement in what he calls misinformation:

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"This is not the time to back down. Don't get intimidated. We know that the threats will come. They are coming fast and hard, but our bottom line remains that we are standing up for the good of this country. We see every minute the propaganda being aired and nobody has really stood up and say to the Prime Minister or to the government or to those who are supporting those actions, how much of tax payers dollars is being spent on those ads that are being played on the air. We know that I minute of air time is not cheap and the Prime Minister's address is over 9 minutes and in one day we are hearing probably for 10 times. And then you are going to look at us and say we don't care about this country, we don't care about our children, but you can be squandering the people's money trying to dissuade people trying to be divisive at that, using terms that we are on a destructive crusade. We have said that this is a peaceful process. We are not going to ask and encourage anybody to try and do anything that would destroy this country simply because they are probably fed up with what is going on and would try to seize on this opportunity. We are not about that."

Channel 7

BNTU Calls on Support from Other Unions

The Belize National Teacher’s Union is going back to its membership to provide updates on the ongoing discussions with Government. The BNTU has taken a strong stance in favor of good governance. The union made eight demands which the Government so far has been unable to fully satisfy and now, after a meeting held with Prime Minister Dean Barrow last week; the BNTU has decided to resort to further industrial action. It has also decided to get other unions involved and yesterday, at its headquarters in Belize City, the BNTU hosted several other unions in an effort to convince them to join the cause. In attendance were the leadership of the utilities union which includes, Belize Communications Workers Union, The Belize Water Services Workers Union, and the Belize Energy Workers Union. Also at the meeting were several social partners including the churches. BNTU National President, Luke Palacio, spoke of the meeting.


“There was a meeting last night not only the utilities, the BNTU invited several social partners to a meeting last night at our headquarters where the objective was to clarify what our response is to the Prime Minister so they were able to get first hand our side of the story and to ask them to lend support if they felt that that is in order. There were those who said , and I said it to them as well we are not expecting them to give us an answer overnight because they came to get information and in some instances they need to take it back to their membership in the case of the unions and other organizations and they said that that is what they would have needed to do, they were going to take back the information. We had the cane farmers association who said they would support the BNTU, we had of course COLA has come out from the beginning. We had the I Want My Country Back led by Pastor Wade so we had a good cross section of individuals who some were of course like everything else some would be more upfront and others would be more reserved but all in all we believe it was a very good meeting. They were satisfied that now they have the the other side of the story if you will and we trust that whatever they go to present to their people would have a positive outcome for us.

Ernesto Vasquez: Do you find that you are ending up carrying the torch for all of these other groups that are tagging on to you that that could skew your objectivity in this whole matter?

“Yes there is always that possibility but we remain focused. If we have to call in our council to a meeting every other day they are prepared to come because we listen to our constituents and if they are not satisfied or they have concerns about certain moves we are making we come together, sit down and discuss that matter and we chart another way in dealing with those things but at the end of the day we are saying to our country, look these are not good times, it can be better and we need to work towards making it better because this five second democracy that happens in our country, you walk into a polling station you are given a ballot paper, you vote and walk out and that is the end of democracy in this country needs to stop because the elected politicians from both sides of the political divide will say that they have been elected. They don’t govern, they rule, that is not governance and that is why we are pushing this agenda.”

The heads of the unions will now consult with their membership to determine whether or not they would join the Belize National Teacher’s Union on its “Stand Up for Belize Campaign”.


#517894 - 09/29/16 04:56 AM Re: BNTU says GOB proposal “not good enough” [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,597
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Ministry of Education Ready to Hire Temps if Teachers Go On Strike

Last night, we told you about the meeting of the San Ignacio Branch of the Belize National Teachers Union. Those teachers were suggesting that the Monday strike should be extended, with no clear announcement as to when exactly it would end.

That's a suggestion that National President Luke Palacio committed to take back to the Council of Management for final approval. But, the Ministry of Education isn't waiting around; they've sprung into action to keep schools open, at all costs.

The ministry and the Managing Authorities of schools countrywide are activating contingency plans, prepared for the strike to continue past Monday.

Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber and officials of his Ministry met representatives of those school managers today at the ITVET compound, and the news coming out of that meeting is that teachers will be hired on a temporary basis. They will be there to fill in and make sure that children are taken care of for however long the teachers decide to strike.

The Ministry sent out a release this evening saying quote, "The Ministry of Education and the Attorney General's Ministry will prepare a Statutory Instrument that will provide authority for the temporary employment of emergency replacements to substitute during industrial action. Potential emergency replacements will be recruited by Managing Authorities to be deployed if necessary if industrial action exceeds a certain amount of days." End quote.

Today, our news team waited outside that Ministry and Management meeting, asked Education Minister Faber about this unprecedented, emergency action:

Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education
"We are task as the Ministry of Education to make sure that there is that efficient provision of education in this country and if it means that there is going to be the kind of industrial action that we'll see a prolonged interruption in the education services of this country; we are forced to act."

"Our move is to indeed convene a meeting of the national council, NC the national council for education and the NCTVET which is required by our education act and rules that we consult before making signing any statutory instrument into effect. We proposed to meet with the NC and the NCTVET on Friday and to consult with them. The union president in fact is a part of I believe both of those entities so he will be present, he will be invited; if he has not received the invitation I extend that invitation now."

"In an effort to try to ensure that we are doing things legally, I intend to sign the statutory instrument to amend the rules to allow for this permit to teach to be extended to allow for the hiring of teachers to assist in emergency situations like industrial action. I intend to have that signed and good to go by the end of the weekend, we have said of the managing authorities that is the general managers and the board chairs and whoever else is involved with the hiring that they should proceed with finding people who will meet the requirements of the permit to teach. Anybody who is in that category and the school's management sees if fit that they can be of assistance in keeping the doors of the school open, those are the person we have encouraged the management, the managing authorities to add to their list of potential person to be hired as temporary teachers."

"We have parents who have indicated to the schools listen if the teachers are not going to be there we are going to come in, we are going to help out and there is nothing necessarily wrong with that in theory but legally you cannot just bring anybody into the school system like that. There are concerns of course that we have and so we want to do things on a proper legal footing."

This afternoon, less than an hour after those morning meetings were completed, news of this intended SI went viral on Facebook, and condemnations of Faber's actions were swift and numerous. We put a few of those criticisms to him today, and here's what he had to say in response:

Micah Goodin - Krem
"How do you respond to criticism that this is perhaps another move by government at union busting?"

Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education
"Well I don't understand how that could be.."

"Because we democratically have the right to demonstrate?"

Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education
"Ah no and I need to make that clear. Industrial action is properly warranted according to the education act and the accompanying rules and the amended rules; industrial action is warranted when there is a properly constituted labour dispute. All is now aware that in fact the 3% increment that the prime minister proposed for referral is not on the table."

"They made is clear, you've seen their flyer, it's not about the 3, it's about the country. That the 8 demands are what they are striking for so the closes you could have gotten to a labour dispute was for that 3% to be brought in. So as far as we are concerned this strike does not properly constitute a reason under our rules for the teachers union to be striking."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir are your emergency measures not properly classified as scab labour or strike breaking?"

Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education
"No and you will know that the obligation, the mandate to me as minister of education and to my ministry the ministry of education that we must ensure that there is the delivery of education services in this country. You could term it whatever you want in terms of being whatever; but that is my obligation that is my job that is my responsibility that is the responsibility of my ministry - to make sure that the children of this country and by extension the citizen of this country because it's not limited to children alone; that they are offered education services and if there is something that is impeding that delivery of service, then is my obligation to try to find other mechanism to do that and that is exactly what we are doing."

Daniel Ortiz
"Couldn't this be interpreted as the government trying to muzzle the teachers?"

Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education
"Let me remind you again, I said it just now but let me be clear. This morning this meeting was with the managing authorities. General Managers for primary schools and board chairs and even their principals who serve on the board representing managing authorities at the secondary level; our purpose this morning was not to say to anybody support the government, you have to do what the government - that's not our purpose. Our purpose was to say to these managing authorities that under the law you're obligation is to make sure that schools remain open and that the services of education are offered."

UDP Goes Into Overdrive To Keep School Open, But Are They Union-Busting?

And while the Education Ministry and the political directorate are going to extraordinary lengths to keep schools open, on the ground, UDP politicians were working their tails off today.  Cabinet tasked area representatives to visit schools in the constituencies and make direct appeals to the teachers and principals not to participate in a strike.  We found out about it when two city reps showed up at Wesley Lower school , which is one block from our studio. We waited for them to finish and asked what the meeting was about:…

Tracey Taegar-Panton - UDP Area Rep, Albert
"We have been meeting with the teachers and with the principals and the management of the schools to share with them government's responses to the eight point demands that were made by the BNTU management - because we think it is important in terms of decision making that both sides of the conversation be well represented so that teachers can make up their own minds. We are certainly concerned that schools needs to remain open, our children need to be in school and we're hoping that we can appeal to our teachers to look at things objectively and be able to keep schools open on Monday and keep children in school."

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"You're union busting."

Hon. Michael Finnegan - UDP Area Rep, Mesop.
"Tracy and I responsibility, is to make sure that we visit every school in Belize City and we will talk to every teacher, individually as was done this morning at Grace Primary School, individually as was done at Calvary Temple Primary School, and as a group that was done here at Wesley School."

"And the government wants to make it extremely clear that we do not have any quarrel with any teacher in the country of Belize and the teachers have a right to strike and that is the constitutional right, and we live in a democracy, but the teachers must be given the two sides of the story."

Jules Vasquez
"However sir, answer the question if you don't mind, what you're doing here is you're telling the teachers, do not be loyal to your union, do not follow your president, follow us, the government."

Hon. Michael Finnegan - UDP Area Rep, Mesop.
"To be educating people, is not union busting. We are...only one side was presented, in fact no side was presented to them because they did not came back, they never come back to the teachers. They sat with the prime minister and sat with him for almost five hours and presenting a letter 18 hours later, and the first paragraph, "in your meeting with us today" it means that the same night they write the letter Jules."

"But you see in my view this is not bout teachers, this is not about representing the interests of the teachers, this is about toppling the government of Belize."

Jules Vasquez
"What was the reception today Tracey?"

Tracey Taegar-Panton - UDP Area Rep, Albert
"I think we had a very good dialogue with the teachers, we were mostly listening to the concerns of the teachers but they were also willing to hear our views on the matter. I think it was open, it was receptive, we did ask them to look at things objectively and then to make a decision from there as they see fit."

Jules Vasquez
"However, are you aware, what I've heard, that many of the teachers resent the government because those same teachers in there have to improvise have to spend their own money in order to prepare their classrooms."

Hon. Michael Finnegan - UDP Area Rep, Mesop.
"But that is what BNTU should do. That is exactly what BNTU should do; make a list of demands to make our classrooms better and to make our teachers work in a better atmosphere and to work in there with dignity, and respect and with love, that is the job of the BNTU, their job is not to try to topple the government! Ah? There was just an election! Their job, Jules, is to try to topple the Dean Barrow Administration; Blind-eyed Jamesy could see that!"

Jules Vasquez 
"You want to tell the union what is their job, but they're advocating so that the children they educate - this is what they say - so that children they educate can live in a better, just society, free of corruption which they believe your government represents, Sir."

Hon. Michael Finnegan - UDP Area Rep, Mesop.
"What corruption my government represents? Noh, but then you could argue it. Tell me what corruption my government represents."

Jules Vasquez  
"Sir let us not go into it because we could be here all day."

Hon. Michael Finnegan - UDP Area Rep, Mesop.
"So when our teachers and children fail PSE, so we must follow and seh, the children 50% of they are failing, so what should we do, bring teachers from the Caribbean and international to teach the children at school? That is unfair and disrespectful to our teachers. It is not the teachers that have they children fail they examination."

Jules Vasquez  
"Well you can't blame the children."

Hon. Michael Finnegan - UDP Area Rep, Mesop.
"There are a compilation of things that cause that, noh di teachers."

Jules Vasquez   
"If next week Monday this school is closed down. Is it then okay for me to say that you tried and you failed?"

Hon. Michael Finnegan - UDP Area Rep, Mesop.
"Well let's wait and see. And I think since morning we have been dealing with extremely reasonable people. I like what we are seeing. I love what we are seeing."

Jules Vasquez
"But you know that everybody who run against you in Mesop. they seh di same thing. They like what they are seeing election morning, but they don't like what they see election night."

Hon. Michael Finnegan - UDP Area Rep, Mesop.
"But let's wait and see, let's wait and see, the proof of the pudding is in the eating."

Finnegan told us that he and Taegar visited the majority of schools in Albert and Mesopotamia.

Is The Barrow Admin. Rattling The Union’s Chain?

So, is the Government concerned about provoking the teachers into more drastic action? These temporary replacements, in theory allows for the Ministry to keep the schools open, and it very deliberately undermines the leverage that the BNTU had with the strike – what the Prime Minister called "holding parents to ransom."

So, we wondered if the Minister has considered that the teachers may feel compelled to match and exceed government's strategy with their own equally drastic plan of action. Here's how he answered that one:

Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education
"I am not trying to pick a fight; I'm merely trying to do what is required of me, as I'm obliged to do under the responsibilities that have been task to me as Minister of Education. I really hope we don't have to have to get to any point of employing replacement teachers; I really would love to see that people turn to work on Monday and that they give the government its due opportunity to fix issues. I think it is clear in all the 8 demands made that there is movement to try to resolve these issues. If it was that people were trying to send a signal in last Monday's rally and demonstration that we are serious about you doing something; message well received. And if it is they even need another day and are willing to take the repercussions then take Monday. In fact our plan says we will try to put replacement teachers by Wednesday and so we are even giving a few days but beyond that I'm telling you we will have to act and act responsibly; however much people will interpret that to mean me picking a fight or the government wanting confrontation or trying to displace people out their jobs - that is choice they are making."

"If the government was doing nothing then that is another issue. The unions in particular the BNTU in their response to the prime minister after the Thursday meeting, their letter to him on the Friday if you look at how they classify the 8 things there is not an item as far as I recall where they say nothing is being done on this issue - you check it. Every issue and you might argue with the percentage of or level at which any of those items are dealt with but nobody can say that none of them....the prime minister has said I'm doing absolutely nothing, I'm not responding."

Daniel Ortiz
"The cosmetic changes..."

Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education

Daniel Ortiz
"But cosmetic changes aren't real changes sir."

Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education
"Well you are calling them cosmetic, not everybody agrees with what you are saying. And much of what is being said in terms of the prime minister's position is being done not only by the government but in consultation with partners. And this is the point the prime minister makes you know, so when you say that they are cosmetic you are insulting the intelligence of the chamber who the prime minister has engaged with. You are insulting the intelligence of the other unions who the prime minister has sought their support, you are insulting the intelligence of the churches, so I wouldn't call them cosmetic."

"Is it that we should allow the BNTU to high jack the government? Was it not that we were elected to do a job?"

Micah Goodin - Krem
"Is this administration fearful that the BNTU might just topple the government?"

Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education
"(Laugh...) that's a loaded question and I like your passion in expressing your point. Listen we are not confused about who is the government you know and who is put here by the people to govern."

Faber told us that the teachers will be paid for last week Monday, which they missed to participate in that demonstration. They will not be paid for next week Monday's strike, and if it continues past Tuesday, on Wednesday, those temporary teachers will be deployed.

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#517913 - 09/30/16 05:14 AM Re: BNTU says GOB proposal “not good enough” [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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Teachers Getting Ready To Escalate On Ministry of Education

Last night, we told you about the Ministry of Education's plans to pass a statutory instrument which will allow for temporary teachers to be hired to fill in for teachers who decide to strike. The "temps" will be deployed if the industrial action extends beyond 2 days.

As we told you, the Ministry's emergency actions does allow - in theory - for classes to stay open, but it also undermines the BNTU's industrial leverage. We wondered if this response would cause the teachers to escalate further to try to outdo the Ministry, and reliable information reaching 7News is that it will.

We haven't been able to confirm, but reports suggests that having heard of these temporary replacement teachers, the Belize City Branch of the Union used their evening meeting yesterday to suggest escalation and retaliation against government's emergency actions. There is a Council of Management meeting tomorrow, and the Ministry's bold SI is expected to feature prominently on the agenda. The final decision on what action will be taken should come out of that meeting. Suggestions include extending the strike and taking material out of the classrooms which teachers bought.

We'll follow up with the BNTU's Council of Management tomorrow to find out more.

Opposition Leader Calls DPM’s Actions “Despicable”

And so, the battle lines are drawn, but what's unusual this time around is that the Barrow Administration is attempting to use political persuasion to muscle in in the teacher's turf - which is fueling the escalation. Today the leader of the opposition called the actions of the Minister of Education "despicable":

Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"We find the actions of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education despicable, that pretty much what the government is trying to do is union bust. They want to try to break up the BNTU and try to intimidate the teachers by saying that if you don't come to work, we are going to find somebody to replace you. It is so ironic that when you want to see a minister, you can't see them, but right now you have all the elected representatives and ministers of the government and even their none elected representatives going to the schools right now and talking to the teachers and talking to the managers for them to be able to keep the schools open. It is like they are shooting the messenger. Instead of looking at the message that the BNTU is talking about."

"Who are these people they are going to bring in? A lot of these people have been dismissed as teachers or they have not been able to get their licenses for one reason or the other. And those are the people they are going to bring into the classrooms to look after our children? Something is seriously wrong with this government."

"Have you met with the BNTU leadership?"

Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"No, I have not met with the BNTU leadership and I have deliberately done so, because I don't want for people to think that what the BNTU is doing is political. Even though the Prime Minister is already accusing the president Mr. Luke Palacio that it is political, that it is being driven by us in the PUP. We have not met with the BNTU. What we have been doing though is that we have been meeting other unions and other organizations and appealing to them that we need to stand up with the BNTU. We cannot allow the teachers to feel that they are alone with this fight."

PM Appeals To Unions For Urgent Negotiations on 3%

So, while there no doubt that the teacher's strike - like their slogan says - is not about the 3; it's about country, the Prime Minister trying to make sure that money doesn't become part of the fight.

He wrote the Teachers Union, the Public Service Union, and the Association of Public Service Senior Managers, on Tuesday noting that they have not responded to him as yet on proposal to defer the salary adjustment. In his letter he says, quote, "We met on September 16...the APSSM and the PSU reiterated their 'yes' decision in support of the deferral until April 2017, and the BNTU reiterated its 'no'. I then put forward a proposal for a compromise to try to achieve unanimity on the issue, and the BNTU president agreed to take that proposal to his membership and report their reaction to us." End quote.

The Prime Minister point out that it has been 11 days since that meeting, and the BNTU hasn't responded.

He continues, "Time is clearly of the essence and I therefore write to ask for a meeting at your early convenience so that we might try to progress this long outstanding matter. Government earnestly wishes to finalize our joint consideration of the salary adjustment payment, and so I ask for a reply soonest to this letter." End quote.

Catholic Diocese “Blesses” Barrow Admin, Praises Teachers

The Catholic Diocese - self-described as "the largest stakeholder in education" - today sent out a press release praising the teachers for taking a stand against the government. The release frames the situation in dramatic language, describing the teachers as "selfless", fighting a quote, "distinguished...battle bravely fought on behalf of this grateful nation and its children." End quote.

And speaking of those children, the Diocese acknowledges that it's responsible for about 50 thousand of them. And so what will happen to them on Monday? Well, the church says it, quote, "recognizes the temporary vacuum that the teachers in their fight for truth in governance will leave in their absence." End quote. So what should parents do? Well the Diocese says, quote, "we believe that the safety of up-wards of 50,000 students in our care will be at risk, without the adequate supervision of our teachers." The release continues, "Recognizing these security challenges posed to the Catholic Management at this time, we hereby ask that all parents take note of these special circumstances for Monday, October 3, 2016." So, bottom line? The Catholics say "don't send your kids to school on Monday." And what happens after that? The release says that "the Diocese will continue to closely monitor developments concerning the teachers' industrial action."

The release ends with a jab at government saying, quote, "It is our prayer that…Government Leaders…respect the search for truth in governance and…preserve and protect our governing democratic system..."

Reports to 7News are that some in the Catholic Community have their own concerns about the strident tone of this message, and have asked the Nunciature in Honduras to review the situation. He could visit as early as next week.

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