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#518414 - 10/20/16 11:02 AM Ministry of Education Says: No Services, No Salary!
Marty Offline

Carol Babb

Late Tuesday evening, a memo from the Ministry of Education, titled “Withholding of Contributions towards Salaries for Teachers on Strike,” was released.  According to the document, signed by Chief Education Officer Doctor Carol Babb, G.O.B. has decided to withhold salaries for teachers who went on strike from all government and grant-aided schools. The instructions issued to school managements came within hours after the B.N.T.U. had called off an eleven-day strike. According to C.E.O. David Leacock and Doctor Babb, the government reserves its right not to pay teachers since services were not rendered.

Dr. Carol Babb, Chief Education Officer

“The government is basing this decision on the fact that we give salaries based on services rendered. The teachers were warned that if they choose to strike, there will be consequences. And we are withholding salaries because services were not delivered by those teachers who chose to strike.”

Reporter

“Now explain to us for those who do not know, the teachers who this affects.”

Dr. Carol Babb

“It’s not all teachers, but if you look at rule 102, it states that during a strike, it is the responsibility of the managing authorities to keep a record of teachers who are participating in the strike. So only those teachers who participated in the strike will be affected. At the primary level, government pays one hundred percent for all primary school principals and teachers for government and grant aided primary schools. At the primary level excluding private schools, government pays a hundred percent of salaries. At the secondary schools, it is different with the finance reform and the C.E.O. can tell you more about that. But at the primary level, government pays a hundred percent.”

David Leacock

David Leacock, C.E.O., Ministry of Education

“I think that was established in the ruling in 2005 where this issue arose before. I’m not sure if unwarranted was the word. People have a right to strike if that is what they feel…”

Reporter

“So perhaps unreasonable?”

David Leacock

“…Maybe, because there were ongoing negotiations. But at this point, it is neither here nor there; it’s happened. And so this is where we are at.”

Teachers’ Union Looks at Legalities of Ministry’s Move

Luke Palacio

The memo from the Ministry of Education has obviously not been well received by the B.N.T.U.  This afternoon, the B.N.T.U. executive met on the matter which could lead to further industrial action. President Luke Palacio said the union’s attorneys are carefully considering the legalities involved.

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

“We are also studying the documents. We have sent out to our membership that we are reviewing that document. We are also seeking legal advice on that document and then we will be able to make better pronouncements, if you will, as to what our actions will be in relation to this. We know for a fact that the ruling according to the advice we’ve received; that it is not the ministry’s purview to instruct managers to deduct salaries from teachers who are on strike. Rule 102 yes clearly indicates that if teachers are on strike, yes they may lose salary and one of the things that we note that the ministry has not articulated well is sub rule five of 102 which states that the management of the school—the manager or the principal of the school—where he or she deems it…where the principal or manager has reasonable grounds to believe that the safety of students and members of staff not on strike may be at risk, the principal or manager may close the school or institution and may advise the managing authority and the district education center of his decision. So what that is telling us is that those institutions—whether or not teachers were on strike—depending on the number of teachers on strike, how would that affect the teaching learning process or if students did not show up. This memo from the ministry is saying that those persons went against the instructions of ministry to keep the classrooms or the schools open. Those people have no choice; either the number of teachers or the students were not there and subsection five makes provisions for that.”

B.N.T.U. Accuses Ministry of Trying to Bully and Intimidate

According to the B.N.T.U., the salary deductions for the days on strike, is another form of attack against teachers. Palacio says that it is the school management that determines the issue of deductions. In a release this afternoon, B.N.T.U. calls the move a threat and bullying tactic by G.O.B.

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

“We are seeing this memo for exactly what we believe it is; the government continues to try and intimidate our teachers. The government continues to try and aggravate our teachers. When we put the strike on hold, we went throughout the country—we had membership meetings in all district towns—where the branch members had the opportunity to decide whether or not to put the strike on hold. We also noted that our teachers have said it repeatedly that as an act of good faith, we are prepared to make up the time. Why can’t the government, through the Ministry of Education, say let us give that process a chance to work and then we can determine if subsequent actions are taken whether or not the teachers would have brought their promise or good faith intention. The ministry is actually threatening these managements and usurping the authority of these managements. If managements thought that they could work out something with the teachers in terms of deducting from the salary because they were on strike then that would have been the purview of the managements. But this takes that away from them completely to the point where we are told that ministry people are going into the schools and sitting down with administrators and those who are there for them to get the records. Now how far can you go? Now as far as we are concerned, those schools that are not government schools are the property of the proprietors—be it the churches or any other organization.  So this again, the government is really showing some bully tactics that we don’t think is good for the country.”

Channel 5


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#518429 - 10/21/16 10:02 AM Re: Ministry of Education Says: No Services, No Salary! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Education Minister Faber Offers Palacio To Pay Some Teachers’ Salaries

The teachers' strike has ended, but the teachers are angry because government has said it will not pay the strike teachers for the days of work that they missed. The union calls it "bad faith", and warns that it has only put the strike "on hold".

Up to yesterday government was holding the line, but tonight there is some suggestion of softening that hardline. A letter sent today from the Minister of Education Patrick Faber to Teachers Union President Luke Palacio makes two proposals. First, that the BNTU uses its strike fund to pay the teachers, and second, at the point when that fund is insufficient, quote, "the Ministry of Education is willing to subsidize the payment to teachers."

The ministry also proposes to make up teaching time lost to students as a result of the strike. The minister asks Palacio to a meeting tomorrow to discuss this and adds, quote, "if we find agreement then the Ministry will proceed with paying full salaries for the teachers on strike on the condition that the BNTU will repay the government form its strike fund the agreed portion that BNTU would be responsible to meet for the teachers who are on strike," End quote.

It's an olive branch, but it's left to be seen if it will be considered agreeable to the Teachers Union. We are told the president replied to the Minister a short while ago saying the notice is too short and so he is unable to attend tomorrow's meeting. Faber his since offered to meet on the weekend, or as soon as possible.

MOE Counting The Ways To Deduct Salaries

Earlier in the news, we told you about the compromise that the Minister of Education proposed to the BNTU to ensure that the teachers who went on strike will still be paid for their 11 strike days. Well, defusing those tensions is important because if things come to a head again, the teachers could end up going back on strike.

So right now, the teachers have the Deputy Prime Minister's proposal, which was delivered this evening, but they also have to consider that if they can't reach an agreement their pay will be docked. Earlier in the day, the Chief Education Officer, Dr. Carol Babb, sent out another memorandum to the managing authorities of the schools. In it, she gives step by step guidelines on how they should go about docking the pay for the teachers who went on strike. They are advised to take the entire month's salary for a teacher, divide it by 31 days, and that amount is what that teacher earns for one day. Since the teachers were on strike for 11 days, the amount for 1 day should be multiplied by 11. Dr. Babb's memo says quote, "Please note that the entire (amount) should be deducted in one payment" End quote. That means that the Ministry is expecting that the teachers would not get any financial ease with partial deductions.

Yesterday, She and CEO David Leacock held a press briefing on the ministry's stance to dock the teacher's salary:

Dr. Carol Babb, Chief Education Officer
"The government is basing this decision on the fact that we give salaries based on services rendered. The teachers were warned that if they choose to strike, there would be consequences and we are withholding salaries because services were not delivered by those teachers who choose to strike."

David Leacock, CEO - Ministry of Education
"The decision of the government of Belize is that we withhold our contributions in those instances where the teachers were on strike. So it's the teachers who were on strike that would be affected ultimately, unless of course managing authorities have it within their wherewithal to pay. But from our perspective, we are paying for a service and the government is paying for a service and if a service is not rendered, then you have the right to not pay for it. I think that would establish in the ruling on claim number 85 in 2005 where this issue arose before."

Reporter
"But I don't believe people were expecting that their salaries would actually be docked."

Dr. Carol Babb, Chief Education Officer
"Well I believe the contrary, because a number of teachers were saying that they were willing to make the sacrifice for their salary to be docked and we have been informing them and reminding them of rule 102 which says that if you take industrial action, meaning if you go on a strike, there is the possibility that your pay may be docked and they say that they are willing to do that."

Channel 7


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#518451 - 10/22/16 11:02 AM Re: Ministry of Education Says: No Services, No Salary! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Ministry of Education Suggests Holding Back On Docking Pay (For A Month)

Last night, we told you how the Minister of Education, Patrick Faber, made a proposal to BNTU president Luke Palacio suggesting how teachers who were on that eleven-day strike could still get paid.

The BNTU and the Ministry would work together to come up with fund out of the union's strike funds and government would chip in the rest.

Palacio has responded saying that he needs time to get instruction from his union's council of management. And so government has thrown in a sweetener. Faber now proposes that teachers will get their full paycheck come next week Friday. Here's his plan:

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"Just a while ago we decided to delay the withholding of the salaries from this month of October. We would put it off until next month to give the BNTU ample time to answer the proposal that we have put forward. This is also being done because we have a few of the managing authorities, particularly the largest one, I think the Roman Catholic management. That is saying we have so many schools and teachers that it's hard for us to compile this information. Remember that the strike had gone up until Tuesday I believe, so we still are gathering information. It's hard for us to meet the deadline of 4:30 today, Friday. So we have said 'okay we won't interfere with the salaries for this month of October, but rather we will move with those deductions at the end of the November month."

As you would remember yesterday, the Ministry of Education sent out a memorandum to the managing authorities giving step-by-step instructions on how the deductions should take place.

Today, we asked Faber about the reason for this memo, and here's what he had to say:

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"Another memorandum from Dr. Carol bob went out giving instructions to the managing authorities, how exactly this calculation from deduction must take place. You're not expected to do any partial deductions, for those who think that that is some move calculated at malice to make sure the teachers feel for their 11 days absence, can you speak to that?"

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"Well that is the instruction that went out indeed, but again I make the point that I have said to Mr. Palacio in writing that in fact we want to discuss all of these issues and I am saying now that the deductions won't be made for this month, they will be made for next month. If we want to discuss that kind of thing, if the deductions will go through and they are saying we don't have a strike fund and we can't make those contributions and the final decision would be that the deductions will be made, then let's talk about this. I am hoping that Mr. Palacio will come to the table so that this kind of discussion can be had. The fact that we have dressed down, so to speak, the deductions give us ample time to do a lot of things."

So, Why Not The Strike Fund?

So, as we told you, the premise of Faber's compromise is that the Union must use its strike fund to come up with the amount to pay all the salaries that would have been cut. If they can't meet the entire amount, that's where the Ministry steps in, and the Government will make up the shortfall.

Here's how Faber explained that:

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"There will be the deductions from the salaries, that has not changed, but yesterday I did write to the president of the BNTU proposing that we might be able to be of assistance to those teachers who were on strike, because we believe that we can assist if the BNTU believes that it can put forward the money that have been withheld as a monthly contribution for the teachers to go into a strike fund. that is our way to make sure that our teachers are comfortable. Especially since the children are at the forefront of whatever it is we are doing here and we believe that there is the need for makeup time to happen. now if it is that teachers aren't paid, especially from the government if the pay is withheld then that question about having teachers go back the classroom to assist overtime to help students to make up time, becomes difficult. If you don't pay more you can't expect them to go back, but if it is that there can be a kind of payment from the strike fund subsidized by the government then that gives us a foot into the negotiations to try to work out make up time for the students. In my response to Mr. Palacio after he indicated that he was unable to make the proposed time, I said to him that I am available to meet any part of the weekend."

Palacio granted an interview last night saying that is not the strike fund's purpose. According to the BNTU President, it is to cover expenses for mobilization of teachers whenever they are on industrial action, not to pay salaries. Today, Faber challenged him on that, saying that the President well knows that a resolution was passed at the 42nd Convention of the BNTU, to amend the use of the strike for just this purpose. Here he is making that point:

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"We believe that the union is being a bit disingenuous on this issue. While Mr. Palacio did not answer me directly to say that the strike fund cannot be used for this issue, I believe he gave an interview to some of the media folks. I certainly saw it on channel 5 and in that interview he was saying that the strike fund doesn't have that as its purpose, that in fact the strike fund is a kind of fund for activities while the teachers are on industrial action. I promptly remind him of a resolution passed at the BNTU convention, I think it was the 42nd convention held in orange walk where the resolution made clear that the strike fund was to be redefined to pay teachers who were denied a salary as a result of strike action. So unless there is something wrong and I would really love for all of you in the media to question Mr. Palacio about that resolution. The issue is that we are asking for the union to be responsible to encourage teachers to go on strike, you have been the persons who have done the interviews. You have seen the countless numbers of officials of the union and regular members of the union who have said that they don't care about the deduction of their pay, that in fact the union has their back because they pay a contribution to that strike fund. So we are asking the union to be responsible, the government wants to resolve this matter but it is not as easy as some folks would say. 'Just pay the teachers', so then what becomes of those teachers who did go to work, are they to be given additional money for the fact that they did go work? And where is that additional money to come from if it is, we're going to use the entire money available for this month to pay the teachers their full salaries."

But, is that the only reason for turning attention to the strike fund? We asked the Deputy Prime Minister if there is any move to sap the Union of its financial resources, which then limits their ability to further engage in industrial action. Here's how he answered that one:

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"What if they make use of that fund for financing mobilization of teachers, financing food and whatever while the teachers are out on strike activities? Would this then not be a move calculated at crippling their ability to move and show their muscle to the government?"

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"Well we don't get into the affairs of the union necessarily, how they fund their activities when it is they decide to go on industrial action is entirely their business. But what we do know is that the teachers contribute to what is deemed a strike fund. What we do know is that in orange walk in 2012, there was a resolution passed by the membership of the BNTU to say that the money of what is deemed to be the strike fund should be used to assist teachers if it is there is a strike and that their salaries are being withheld. I think that everybody can see that it is clear that this is one such situation. So we want the union to be responsible, this thing goes both ways, they have clamored for good government, they have clamored for government to be honest, open and upfront, well let's get that same kind of transparency from them. Let them say to the membership what is really going on with the strike fund money."

Channel 7


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#518566 - 10/28/16 09:59 AM Re: Ministry of Education Says: No Services, No Salary! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Teachers Will Get Paid, But Differences With Minister Persists

When teachers go the bank tomorrow, they will find their full pay in their accounts, even those who participated in the 11-day strike. But, come next month, it is uncertain if those strike teachers will get their full pay. That's when the deductions for those lost school days are scheduled to take place, and right now, the BNTU and the Ministry are trying to work out a resolution to ensure that no one's pay is docked.

The problem is that the Minister and the Union can't even agree on how they will meet to even discuss this. The Union wants its entire 25 member Council of Management to participate in the union, but the Minister of Education, Patrick Faber, thinks that 5 members are enough. Neither is giving any ground. The rift between the two sides is so great that both are questioning the other's motives. On the Ministry's side, this insistence on a full 25 member BNTU national executive is being interpreted as a tactic to frustrate the dialog. On the Union's side, they suspect that Faber wants to blindside them with proposals that they aren't able to accept, and, so they want the full participation of the Committee of Management.

This evening, the Union's National President, Luke Palacio, granted the press an interview, to lay out the union's position:

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"We have indicated to the minister that the council of management is the second highest authority of the BNTU and that any such meeting would have to be with members of our council and so yesterday in the media when he indicated that he has suggested or is recommending to the BNTU that having 25 persons at a meeting would be counterproductive. We do not agree. In the past at about 2 occasions, the minister has had meetings with the entire membership of our council of management. So we do not find favor with what he is recommending."

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"You have people there who will act as oversight so that it will not be a unilateral decision for members and yourself. Isn't that enough to have discussion on this matter?"

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"Clearly, you don't know who you are dealing with when you deal with the minister of education and to a certain extent some of his operatives. The Prime Minister has met with our entire council of management. What is so wrong? What is so important? What is so that Minister Faber wants to hide or what is it he trying come? Is he trying to come and strong hand the union? Now you are affecting your members throughout the country. You are going to get to deal with the bottom-line, the pocket of these individuals who no doubt have expenses and you will wholeheartedly write in a memo and instruct the managers that every penny that is to be deducted must be deducted in one month. Where is the good faith intention? We are not going to be blindly led into a meeting with the minister and his operatives to try and have our teachers continue to suffer under their plan that he has in mind or for us to try and believe that it is wrong to strike in this country. A strike is a right that unions have, that has been articulated in the courts, that is articulated in the ILO Convention, that is articulated in the employers and employees trade union recognition act. So the minister cannot or should not attempt to hoodwinked the people and definitely not the BNTU."

We note that the meeting was scheduled for tomorrow, but at the close of business today, the BNTU still hadn't confirmed with the Deputy Prime Minister. Faber wrote them this evening saying, quote,

"I note that at this hour, the close of the business day, no response has been given regarding my suggestion to have our meeting of tomorrow, Friday convene with both sides bringing not more than five representatives each. I interpret the lack of a response thus far to mean that you may still need some more time to consult with your Council of Management and will be unable to meet tomorrow.

...if something is to be worked out between the BNTU and GOB to pay teachers from the BNTU Strike Fund and GOB funds…timely responses are of great importance to meet preparation deadlines." End quote.

So no meeting tomorrow, and we note that the BNTU's Committee of Management will have to discuss amongst itself if they will agree to send only 5 persons to meet with the Minister. So, what about the Strike Fund? We got a chance to discuss it today, and we put that up against parts of our interview with Faber from last week, so that you can hear their points and counterpoints on the Minister's proposal:

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"The proposal of using BNTU's strike fund for part payment for the salaries that the ministry has decided that they are going to withhold. Our strike fund is not for that purpose and we will have to make that absolutely clear to the minister."

FILE: October 21, 2016
Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education

"I promptly remind him of a resolution passed at the BNTU convention, I think it was the 42nd convention held in orange walk, where the resolution made clear that the strike fund was to be redefined to pay teachers who were denied a salary as a result of strike action. So unless there is something wrong and I would really love for all of you in the media to question Mr. Palacio about that resolution."

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"The BNTU constitution clearly states that the strike fund is to be used for mobilization. In the convention in Orange Walk a resolution was passed and the resolution reads that BNTU makes an effort to redefine the use of the strike fund to cover for salaries when teachers would go on strike. Redefining does not mean that you are going to change it to do what the minister has interpret it to mean. The strike fund for the BNTU is a part of the dues that our members pay. We pay $1 per month towards the strike fund. It's not the $20 or $18 that the teachers' pay go toward a strike fund. Its only $1 per month. So the buildup that we've had in our strike fund to be able to carry out their things have been built up for many years. No doubt the strategy the minister is trying to implement is he wants us to break that strike fund so that we cannot mobilize and that is the farthest thing that we are prepared to do at this time."

Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"What if they make use of that fund for financing mobilization of teachers? Would this then not be a move calculated at crippling their ability to move and show their muscle to the government?"

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"Well we don't get into the affairs of the union necessarily, how they fund their activities when it is they decide to go on industrial action is entirely their business. But what we do know is that the teachers contribute to what is deemed a strike fund. What we do know is that in orange walk in 2012, there was a resolution passed by the membership of the BNTU to say that the money of what is deemed to be the strike fund should be used to assist teachers if it is there is a strike and that their salaries are being withheld. I think that everybody can see that it is clear that this is one such situation. So we want the union to be responsible, this thing goes both ways, they have clamored for good government, they have clamored for government to be honest, open and upfront, well let's get that same kind of transparency from them. Let them say to the membership what is really going on with the strike fund money."

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"When you look at the amount of monies they are preparing to withhold, that is the millions of dollars. Our strike fund is far below that, so no way."

So, The only thing that they can agree on right now is that there is need for make up time, but while they accept that the students need to catch up, they can't agree on how the strike teachers will be compensated for it. Here's their rationale on that matter:

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"It is important that the teachers who are on strike be paid their salaries. They have said it over and over. We have articulated it even to managements that the teachers are prepared to make up the time and so we are appealing to the better judgement of those in authority to try and adhere to that request: pay the teachers their salaries, they are prepared to make up the time."

FILE: October 21, 2016
Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education

"The government wants to resolve this matter but it is not as easy as some folks would say. Just pay the teachers', so then what becomes of those teachers who did go to work, are they to be given additional money for the fact that they did go work? And where is that additional money to come from if it is, we're going to use the entire money available for this month to pay the teachers their full salaries. So it's a very difficult situation for us in the government to be in."

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"If the teachers are prepared to make up the time, every time the government officials and the minister made this statement several times yesterday, it is for the children. If it is for the children and the teachers are prepared to make up the time, then we ask the question who is now punishing the children, because if you don't pay the teachers their salaries, they won't make up the time."

We'll tell you in tomorrow's newscast what the BNTU's decision is on the meeting, and if they will soften their stance and send only 5 members to meet with Faber.

Channel 7


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