And while that fire was raging on Belcan Bridge, the BNTU members were celebrating at their headquarters off Coney Drive. As their songs crescendoed, the blackened clouds of smoke tainted the afternoon sky. Now the fire starters have their own agenda and wanted to cause some trouble in the name of the teachers by blocking the bridge with burning tires.

But, undaunted, the BNTU have their own plans - they are continuing their strike action tomorrow. President Luke Palacio gave the announcing and made it clear that they are not with any group who wants to cause destruction and dilute their message.

Luke Palacio, National President - BNTU
"So my friends, brothers and sisters we can see that the intimidation tactics have not work and because the intimidation tactics have not worked, tomorrow we continue the strike."

Crowd Chanting

Luke Palacio, National President - BNTU
"Tomorrow morning our council will be in special session, an emergency meeting of our council of management tomorrow and we invite all our members again to be there with us tomorrow evening at 3 o'clock for further instructions. Enjoy the rest of the day. Enjoy the strike, take care of yourselves and remember this is a peaceful protest. We are not going to destroy this country. We are going to disassociate ourselves from anybody and any organization that think that they will ride on the backs of the BNTU to destroy this country. Solidarity forever."

Kathleen Flowers, Belize City Branch Rep.
"Every one of you have a brother. Every one of you have a sister. Every one of you have parents. Every one of you know somebody who can help us advance this caused by asking them as we take this for the long haul, don't send your children to school. That has to be our mantra and we have to tell people the truth."

"Solidarity forever, for the union makes us strong."

Teachers Call Police Protection Intimidation

And so the strike continues tomorrow - and it will be interesting to see if it was as successful as it was today. Reports received from various parts of the country say that the school shutdown was effective and widespread. It certainly was that way in the largest schooling center, which is Belize City. Now, we stress: not all schools were closed and we found that government managed schools were more likely to be opened. Here's what we saw on our morning circle of shuttered schools:

Jules Vasquez reporting
Schools across the city were closed today - if they had shutters you would think it's a hurricane coming at this Catholic school, schoolyards, as barren as deserts, Queen Square Anglican seemed to have some activity but instead of opening doors, we saw them being closed most schools, though, looked like they hadn't been opened all day doors were closed too at St. John's Vianney.

But at Gwen Liz High, a Government school, it looked outwardly almost like business as usual.

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"I've heard some aspersions about you being here today with law enforcement officers as if you are here to intimidate and impose the will of the state. What really were you or are you doing here today?"

Roosevelt Blades, Chairman, Gwen Liz
"As the chairman of the school I am carrying what my responsibility is. As you know last week the ministry called all the stakeholders together and informed us about the strike. We were asked to put certain measures in place and so I came here this morning just to make sure that everything we had agreed on was in place. I don't know anything about any police officers, I came here alone. I saw one police officer here this morning and we did not make any arrangements for police officers to be here. I don't know how they were dispatched but I'm certainly sure that there were no 4 officers here when I was here."

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"What sort of school day are you all having here today? Did any students show up? Did any teachers show up?"

Roosevelt Blades, Chairman - Gwen Liz
"Yes we have 98 students and 22 teachers."

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"And how many do you normally have? Student and teachers."

Roosevelt Blades, Chairman - Gwen Liz
"The student population is 525."

At St. Martin De Porres - another Catholic managed school even the gate was locked the same just a block away at St. Luke's Methodist

We did see a police officer posted at every school and they were backed up by Patrol units and strike teams to make sure no one created mischief.

At St. Joseph the gate was open, but it looked like no one was at home.

We did see teaching happening at Grace Primary which is a not managed by either of the major denominations.

And our neighbors at Wesley Lower - where we saw two ministers prancing out of last week was closed today - with no students or teachers in sight. In fact, the place where we saw the greatest number of teachers this morning was in the KREMANDALA parking lot - They were there to support their president - who was on the WUB.

But the presence of four uniformed police officers forming a sort of loose apron on the sidewalk - made the teachers feel that it was a deliberate intimidation tactic - like they were being watched.

The officer commanding Southside swooped in to smooth the very ruffled feathers and using police diplomacy - in a pretty short time - he had the very agitated teachers calmed down though the teachers stressed how unwelcome it was.

But Williams smoothed it over with the district president and went to explain to the Union President. He explained to them that it was his decision to deploy the police out there:

ACP Chester Williams, Commander - Southside
"We have to protect the people here. There are people out there who may be against the agenda and might want to come and hinder them or stone them with things that may harm them. We must be proactive, we cannot wait for a call from him that something had occurred."

Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA
"When COLA comes out here and want to meet, COLA wants to have a private conversation with brother Luke and we feel intimidated. You all have equipment, GSU have equipment that could just listen to you from afar - that big van. They are monitoring our calls."

ACP Chester Williams, Commander - Southside
"That's not true."

"Like I have said to Mr. Luke and his teachers, the police are not out here to intimidate or disrupt the teachers in any way. We respect the work that teachers do in our country on a daily basis. We know that they will be on krem, we know that they will congregate out here on Partridge Street and so to be proactive I've sent 4 officers out her to ensure the safety of our teachers as they congregate to in any destination they choose to go to here on after. As it relates to those in the schools, there are still teachers who are at the schools teaching and we do not want anyone to go after them as well as they go about their daily business to do what they want to do. So we're just basically ensuring the safety of the teachers."

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"Sir but you see how it can be interpreted as a sort of intimidation like 'okay you guys are making your statement, so will we'. On behalf of the state, do you see that?"

ACP Chester Williams, Commander - Southside
"Well I can understand the reason why the teachers may have felt that way and that's the reason why I came out to ensure I clear the air and let them understand the reason why we are here. The posting of the police officers out there has nothing to do with the government or the prime minister, I as commander of south side Belize City, took that initiative and put the police officers there to ensure the safety of our teachers."

Luke Palacio, President - BNTU
"I think all of us felt intimidated. If the police officers he had out here came up and said 'we've been asked to come out here for your protection', I think the reaction would have been different but they just stood guard as though saying 'hey we're out here to deal with you if anything happens' but not saying 'we are out here to protect you'. I agree with the sentiments being expressed, we are glad that the officer in charge, Officer Williams, has cleared the air to that extent and we trust that that will be the spirit going forward."

BNTU Claims Strike Success

So while that is the report from Belize City, what was the overall picture for Day 1 of the teachers strike? Executive Secretary Kesha Young Flowers gave us the run down based on branches and BNTU are very pleased with the results.

Kesha Young Flowers, Executive Secretary - BNTU
"We have gotten our first report from day 1 of BNTU strike. In Corozal Town Branch: 8 schools were fully closed, 5 were opened. But most of them were giving partial service. They had maybe 2 classrooms or a classroom open. Give Corozal Town branch a hand."

Crowd chanting

Kesha Young Flowers, Executive Secretary - BNTU
"Corozal Rural branch: all schools were fully closed. One teacher showed up to work at San Narciso. So that's almost 100% support from Corozal Rural branch."

"Orange Walk branch reported 400 teachers strong on strike. Belmopan branch had 269 teachers at their membership meeting and they were meeting from 8:30 this morning. Come on give it up."

"San Ignacio branch reported that of the 26 schools in that district, 20 of them were fully closed."

"Benque Viejo branch had most primary schools closed and the attendance at secondary was very poor. Give Benque Viejo a round of applause."

"Stann Creek branch reported that 450 teachers strong are on strike. In Punta Gorda branch, 4 schools were fully closed and 5 were open with little or no students present. Toledo Rural branch had the majority of their schools fully closed."

"In the Belize branch, of the 63 schools, 8 of those were open giving from full to partial service."

And another assessment will have to be done tomorrow as well to ensure everyone stays on the same page as the strike continues. The council of management will meet tomorrow at 9:00 at the BNTU office and then the plan for Wednesday will be revealed at 3:00.

Unions Pledge Verbal Support

A number of unions have sent out statements of solidarity with the BNTU. They include the Christian Workers Union and the Belize Workers Union from BSI. The Christian Workers has called on its members to wear green ribbons throughout this work week.

The Belize Workers Union says, quote, "The BQWU stands in solidarity to move the cause to the next level." Neither union has committed its members to industrial action.

It is About “the Three”?

And while the Teachers Union is hoping to increase the pressure on the government by entering its second day of strike action, the dynamic in the dispute now seems to be changing and that's because of a letter that the Teachers Union sent to the Chief Education Office on Friday.

The letter starts off as a formal notice of strike action - and explains that the industrial action is, quote, "to express our dissatisfaction with the long and the slow and inadequate pace of our current round of collective bargaining negotiations," end quote.

The letter ends by demanding two things: payment of the three percent salary adjustment, and urgent negotiation of what is known as Proposal #22 - which relates to service benefits of non-teaching staff.

So then is it all about the "three percent" after all? We say that because for weeks, we've been hearing only about the 8 governance proposals. President Palacio says it's always been about the 3:...

Luke Palacio, President - BNTU
"The government has refused vehemently to agree to our position at BNTU, that the request the Prime Minister made for us to defer our salary adjustment. We said to him you have to give us something for it. He is steadfast in his no. We are steadfast in our position. We have not given up and we will not give up on our 3% salary adjustment."

Jules Vasquez, 7News
"Sir, I just want to make it clear. There are 8 demands and the slogan is "it's not about the 3, it's about the country," but I'm saying the 3 is back on the table now, so there are 8 demands?"

Luke Palacio, President - BNTU
"The 3 was never on the table. The 3 is a negotiation that started in 2008 between 3 unions and the government of Belize. The 8 points demands are BNTU's demands - have nothing to do with that particular issue, but because it came right in the heels of the request and on the heels of the rejection of BNTU - of the Prime Minister's request for deferral, then it has to be there. We have not yet gotten it. We have made it absolutely clear to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, we have our conditions to accept your request for deferral. The other 2 unions for whatever reasons decided that they'll accept the deferral - that is neither here nor there. We were never told that you were coming to negotiate or to answer this request. You must all agree either one way or the other. We are saying we will not just give up our 3% at the request of the Prime Minister for a deferral without him giving us back something for it. And the 8 points are totally separate." The Ministry of Education sent out a press release today calling the BNTU letter, quote, "a clear attempt to muddy the waters and to shift the goal posts."

Channel 7