But B.N.T.U. Up for Negotiations

There will be at least a sixth day of industrial action organized by the Belize National Teachers’ Union on Tuesday because Monday is a holiday. That is the news coming out of a day-long meeting of the Union’s Council of Management at their Belize City headquarters this afternoon. The Council convened following membership meetings in each of the ten branches held after Thursday’s mass demonstrations and rallies countrywide. But while most schools will again be closed next week, there may be an end in sight. According to Teachers’ Union president Luke Palacio, they are asking Prime Minister Dean Barrow to make formal the earlier call by him and by Cabinet to return to the negotiating table.

Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.

“Despite the propaganda that has been spread, that the Prime Minister has invited us to a meeting, to the negotiations table, that there has been no such formal request. Not in writing, not via telephone call. We heard that, like all other Belizeans did, when he had his video launched some two Sundays ago. We take this opportunity this evening, to call on the Prime Minister to set a date, a time and a venue for a meeting, so that that meeting can be held, because like we’ve said before and we continuously say, the doors remain open. However, until that meeting is convened, and the B.N.T.U. obtains a level of satisfaction from the responses or the outcomes of such a meeting, our members will remain on strike. We take it one day at a time my brother. This is fluid; on Tuesday this is what we said we will do and by the end of Tuesday, we will say to our membership what we are going to do on Wednesday. We are saying that there has been no formal request—neither in writing nor by telephone. The only place we’ve heard that the Prime Minister is asking the unions to go back to the negotiating table is in his video presentation. So we are saying to him now, either make that formal call or in writing, but we are making a request that a meeting be held with the Prime Minister either on Tuesday or Wednesday. He is going to suggest the venue, the time and which of those two days, he will have that meeting held.”

P.M. Says He Will Meet With B.N.T.U. as Part of Umbrella N.T.U.C.B.

Within a few hours of Luke Palacio’s statement, the Prime Minister responded. He wrote to the B.N.T.U. president saying that Palacio’s statement is a fig leaf. According to the Prime Minister, he has publicly issued several calls for a return to negotiations, including two days ago. He goes further to state that Palacio did not indicate, in his response following the September twenty-second meeting announcing the strike that the Union was willing to further engage after rejecting the majority of the positions Government put to them. In fact, the Prime Minister put the Union president on the hot seat. He believes that the Union did not want further engagement and that the decision to strike had been taken before even hearing Government’s position. But Barrow says Government remains ready to further discuss the good governance agenda and other issues and tells Palacio that there is a problem because the National Trade Union Congress of Belize has adopted the position that the good governance agenda is one that it had already taken up, and that it should now be synchronized and further progressed by the Congress. The Prime Minister has formally written to the N.T.U.C.B. to fix the earliest possible date for those negotiations. The PM believes that it would be counterproductive and time consuming for Government to try to reach agreement with each individual Union, especially when, he states, time is obviously of the essence.

Channel 5


Teachers Shall Not Be Moved! Strike Continues Into Second week

Teachers have now concluded 5 days of strike, and the news tonight is that on next Tuesday, it will continue.

That's the decision coming out of a 6 hour-long meeting by the BNTU's Council of Management in Belize City today. We were there when they called a press briefing to share the news. Here's why the leaders say that the teacher want to continue staying out of classes next week:

Luke Palacio - National President - BNTU
"Our council of management wants to make it known to the media and to the public in general that despite the propaganda being spread that the prime minister has invited us to a meeting, to the negotiations table; there has been no such formal request, not in writing, not via telephone call. We heard that like all other Belizeans when he had his video launch two Sundays ago. We take this opportunity this evening to call on the prime minister to set a date, a time and a venue for a meeting so that meeting can be held because like we've said before and we continuously say the doors remain open. However until that meeting is convened and the BNTU obtains a level of satisfaction from the responses or outcomes of such a meeting our members will remain on strike."

Kathleen Flowers - Belize City Branch Rep.
"We want to thank not only our teachers because we could do this without the support of our parents. Yes we have had support of our parents because we know that from the count we do when we go to our schools of the number of children attending schools. These children could only be at home because their parents endorse them being at home and so we thank our parents for keeping their children home because what we do today is for your children tomorrow. We also say that we have to thank the community because the community has been on board with us tremendously so after our public relations campaign took us to the streets and took us to the homes, in towns, villages, in cities where our community resides."

Luke Palacio - National President - BNTU
"The propaganda out there is that BNTU has refused to go back to the negotiating table. We are saying there has not been no formal request neither in writing or by telephone. The only place we've heard that prime minister is asking the union to go back to the negotiating table is in his video presentation. So we are saying to him now you either make that formal call or in writing but we are making a request that a meeting be held with the prime minister either on Tuesday or Wednesday."

Daniel Ortiz
"Why is the written or formal request so important when he has…"

Luke Palacio - National President - BNTU
"Why is it... why is what necessary, in writing?"

Daniel Ortiz
"The formal written..."

Luke Palacio - National President - BNTU
"How many times have they criticized you people in the media for saying something and then its not so? This message that you continue to espouse even in advertisements is that the BNTU is not responding to the request from the prime minister. Just like you in the media we heard of the request in his 9 minute video. We wrote to him, we have evidence that we wrote to him on the 12th of September. We met with him on the 22nd of September, we wrote back to him on the 23rd of September; that is the process we use. When he got on the media and made his 9 minute video that wasn't sent to us first, there was no formal request. So all we are saying to him now, since you have decided you want to carry out this kind of smear tactic campaign against the BNTU we are saying to you now the doors; we've always said the doors remain open, all we are asking you now through this medium on Tuesday or Wednesday we are prepared to meet with you."

As you heard, the BNTU wants the Prime Minister to formally put into writing that he wants to meet with them. The requests made via press release are not good enough according them. There was no clear position shared on whether or not the strike would be ended if he does indeed formally write or call them directly requesting that meeting.

You've been seeing all week on the evening news that the Government has been running advertisements basically suggesting that the BNTU has cut off communication, and been holding the parents and students of the nation hostage with no intentions to dialog with the Government for a resolution. This evening, the Union's Secretary outlined their written communication to the Government:

Kesha Young Flowers - Executive Secretary - BNTU
"There has been public and purpose misinformation put out there. Today the BNTU wants to make it clear that two letters were sent to the prime minster on September 12th. One from under the cover of the joint union negotiations team and that look at the issue of the 3% salary adjustment. The second letter was sent from the BNTU and that contained the 8 demands for good governance, transparency and accountability from the stand of the BNTU. There has been a concerted effort to confuse the public and BNTU wants to make it clear that under the joint union negotiation process we discussed the issue of the 3% salary adjustment. We have received a letter from the prime minister inviting us to a meeting, to a further meeting to discuss what he had proposed to us at our meeting of September 16th. Thus we have not been able to provide response to the prime minister because we have two other unions negotiating with us and we are currently waiting for them to respond to the BNTU as to when that meeting will be able to occur."

And one more bone that the Union had to pick with the Government is over the controversial comments which Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred Elrington made last weekend. He said that he did not believe they had the "wisdom", the "ability" or the "competence" to handle their 8 demands for good governance. Well, the Corozal Town Branch president says that the Union wants him to publicly apologize for what he said:

Corozal Branch President
"I think over the days we've seen the bashing of teachers. We have had to face some serious hurdles on the media but the one that really had us taken a back is to have Minister Elrington attack us personally. It was shameful, it was a sad moment in history for Minister Elrington to go publicly and state that we lack the wisdom, the ability and the competence to tackle these issues. It was shameful and especially knowing that his sister and his wife were once teachers; it speaks volumes to his character. So today on behalf of all the teachers in this country we are demanding a public apology and we will not stop."

"Further in his statement he also made mention that teachers should only be looking at salaries or in the interest of things that affect teachers directly. He is indirectly telling us that we lack the competence to look at anything else other than issues that affect us in the classroom and we are intelligent people and internationally we are respected and we known for standing up for national issues; internationally and now here comes our minister and insult us by telling us that we should be limited to issues in the classroom."

There was no clear position on whether or not the strike would end if the Prime Minister does indeed formally write or call them via telephone requesting that meeting.

Channel 7