Strike rages on! BNTU not moved by PM

Schools will remain closed as the impasse between the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) and the Government of Belize continues.

The BNTU and Prime Minister Dean Barrow held a four-hour meeting on Thursday, after which the Union said the strike was still on because GOB has not been meeting its demands.

BNTU President Luke Palacio, said that the strike will continue because, in his view, the Union came out of the meeting in a worse position than it went in. Palacio said that not only did they not receive an a nod of approval to many of their demands, but the Prime Minister also backpedalled on commitments he had made at previous meetings.

Palacio pointed to the removal of Godwin Hulse as Minister of Police, as one example saying that the Prime Minister had agreed to consider Hulse’s removal. However, he returned to negotiations refusing to even consider it.

Palacio also said that Barrow had offered to sign a Statutory Instrument to amend the Social Security Act to include coverage to and from work, if teachers would agree to go back to school. However, he did not move forward on that front.

“We want it to be known that contrary to reports we’ve gotten about what was said, that the 3 percent salary adjustment was discussed with the Prime Minister,” Palacio said.

“The Prime Minister is asking us to defer and we are not accepting that unless we get compensated for what we rightly deserve.”

The Union will hold membership meetings this weekend to chart a way forward, possibly into a third week of strike action.

Prime Minister Barrow held his own press conference after the marathon meeting, saying that the discussions were amicable, and that he had conceded to most of the BNTU’s demands.

He noted that he has agreed to sign the commencement order for the appointment of the 13th Senator, by Thursday October 20, but the senator would not be appointed until three months after that date.

He added that the Chamber of Commerce will submit a list of five chartered accountants, who are prepared to serve on the Integrity Commission, but he needs to submit the names to the Leader of the Opposition, for him to recommend two of the accountants.

Barrow said that while he agreed to amending the Social Security Act, he is awaiting guidance from the Social Security Board with reference to safeguards that need to be put in place before the amendment. “On the question of the removal of Senator Godwin Hulse, I was quite clear that government cannot, will not, accede to that,” Barrow declared.

The Prime Minister said that he is awaiting a formal response from the Union on whether they accept his proposals, but he is of the view that teachers should return to their classrooms.

The Reporter