Hundreds of teachers across the country are still waiting to collect their salary for the month of September. The Ministry of Education had promised to have outstanding issues resolved by the end of last week; but the General Secretary of the BNTU George Frazer told Love News today that the teachers have still not been paid and that it appears that bureaucratic red-tape in Belmopan may be at the heart of the problem.

George Frazer – General Secretary, BNTU
‘But the bottom line as we told the people from the ministry, your own people, Ms. Arlette Gomez speaking as Public Relations Officer for the Ministry came on public radio and she said yes they were aware, they were doing everything in their power to make sure that teachers got paid by the end of last week. I also called the major managers last Friday which was the deadline that the Ministry indicated that they would pay and I was given some numbers. The Catholic primary school management told me that they had at least 150 primary school teachers who were not paid, mostly new teachers and those who that were temporary teachers; that’s another area of concern, how could you have people temporary for three, four, five years but that is what they were saying; Methodist said they had 15 teachers as far as they could ascertain that were not paid, the Anglicans said they had 16, both the Catholic and Anglican said they tried to help some of the teachers out of their own school funds, give them something to tide them over. As I indicated to the Ministry that under Labour law, if you work and hire someone and they should be paid weekly or monthly when that period is over they must be paid.”

The BNTU executive says that the issue of teachers not receiving their salary for last month first surfaced when the Union was having branch meetings in the south. Frazer says that despite all the assurances that the teachers would have been paid by now the salaries are still pending.

George Frazer – General Secretary, BNTU
“It’s a whole bag of mess then after calling the different managers Friday, I called Treasury to find out if there were any problems on their end, lo and behold to be told that the Ministry of Education usually send two copies of the pay sheet and somebody fumbled up and according to Treasury they only sent one copy. I am not sure if in their haste what went on, all of this kept back. The CEO called me yesterday evening and began to quarrel with me to say that I am making the Ministry look bad and blaming them. There are different reasons why this happened but yes in a way they promised they would try to get the teachers pay and I told Mr. Aird the Chief, from Friday, I called for the CEO and I couldn’t get him and I got the Chief and I told him this is the situation as far as I have been able to ascertain and Treasury was saying that in a way Ministry is to blame because they only sent one copy of the pay sheet instead of two so you have got to take the blame and let us work to see things done. I told all our teachers, nine out of ten branches AGM we went, exactly what we were told. I am not in the habit or known to be a person who would try to mislead or conjure opinion, I told the CEO this, and neither am I an apologist for anybody or government or party. We are here to look after the interest of our country and our schools and our teachers and that’s the bottom line.”

While the BNTU has blamed the Ministry for what has evolved, the Ministry, and no less than the Minister himself, reject that position. This evening Minister of Education, Patrick Faber, explained why.

Patrick Faber – Minister of Education
“Some time ago according to the Education and Training Act that we passed in 2010, we established the Teaching Training Commission; that Commission all will remember is now responsible to vet the applications for persons who wish to be in the teaching profession. How it works is that the management do the hiring and you know that was a struggle, the management insisted on having that ability to go out and recruit the teachers they want and provided that they met the guidelines of the Teaching Services Commission those people would be hired. What has happened is that when the submissions were to be made for the Teaching Services Commission to vet these applications to duly appoint the teachers to the teaching profession so that they can operate in the classroom, some of those applications were not put in. The managements have claimed that the applications were not complete, they did not receive certain things that should have come from the teachers, they did not receive for example a copy of their teacher’s licence, they did not receive a police record, these are the things that cause, according to the managements, not to put in to the Teaching Services Commission. People need to understand that the Government is not in a position, the Ministry of Education and certainly I as the Minister am not in a position to just call up the Teaching Services Commission and give them an instruction. The whole purpose to have a Teaching Service Commission is to cut out the kind of interference from Government and from politics that many agree and all know have called a lot of harm to the education system in the past. There are managements that are still just turning in some of these applications. They bring these things last minute and hoping for us to work some sort of miracle and some kind of magic which is unfair to the ministry, unfair to the Teaching Services Commission as well, things have changed. I am hoping it is growing pains and that people will understand that there is no getting around putting in the proper submission.”

Minister Faber added that people need to understand that there needs to be adherence of the system and that practices of the past won’t any longer be accepted, and that it is all for the good of education in Belize. It is hoped that when the paperwork are worked out, the teachers who are still awaiting payment for the month of September will soon see their pay.