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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Noted Educator and Trade Unionist

Amandala confirmed today that veteran trade unionist and educator George Harold Alexander Frazer, originally of San Ignacio town and currently resident in Belize City, will retire in July after a distinguished career in education and trade unionism spanning four decades.

Frazer, 65, is leaving his post as executive secretary of the Belize National Teachers' Union (BNTU) after 29 years on the job and a prior seventeen years in teaching, closing the curtain on a career that was driven primarily by his fiery passion for social justice and unyielding concern for the lives of his fellow educators and citizens.

Among his many stops at primary and high school are his years of teaching at the former Nazarene Primary School on Albert Street, and a stint as principal at a school in Benque Viejo. After a break for his trained teachers' courses, he resumed at the Nazarene School until moving over in 1975 to Wesley Lower after the Nazarene Primary School was dismantled due to deterioration and its students shared among established schools in Belize City.

In 1978, he began his final teaching stint at Nazarene High School, teaching Spanish to all classes and Social Studies to the lower forms until he moved to BNTU in February of 1983.

At the Union, he served as the organization's "troubleshooter" and public relations officer, dealing with teachers' problems and being the senior advisor to the management and Union committees, in what he has called a "very happy and rewarding experience."

He counts among his many achievements and "memorable moments" the expansion of the Education Rules to span all levels of education, improvements in overall conditions for teachers, and the establishment of the Teaching Services Commission to regulate the hiring and employment conditions of educators, as well as serving on the Labor Advisory Board, and the accompanying expansion of labor laws to benefit workers.

Whether it was in the classroom or on the frontlines, Frazer was able to grab the attention of people high and low by the simple causes he espoused - better working and teaching conditions; national development and respect for the rights of all.

"I have never been a person afraid to stand up for truth and justice," Frazer told KREM News in explaining what lay under his resolve to fight continuously for the rights of the Belizean people. He noted that in his time with the union there has been rapprochement with the other major union in Belize, the Public Service Union (PSU), to work together on issues of common concern where Government previously tried to pit one against the other.

Frazer fondly recalls those days of struggle, sleepless nights and being out on the road, and in particular the shining moment of 2005 when Belize was shut down for several days because of the PSU and BNTU's demands for reforms to public and financial management.

According to Frazer, his very life was occasionally under threat. In the KREM interview, he told for the first time the story of an incident in 2005 in which someone sabotaged the vehicle he and other union executives were traveling in to Orange Walk for a meeting.

"Probably you might not have known, when the Trade Union Congress [was] engaged with Government, one night we were going to Orange Walk for a meeting with the people there, and teachers, and when we saw the back wheel, the back wheel of one of the vehicle roll off, the right hand back wheel. When we checked we found the other back wheel, the nuts were loose, and obviously it was a case of sabotage because there were other cases at that time. We were fighting Government for the mismanagement and corruption and other things, and so many times when you stand up to defend truth and fight for the people - because it was not only about teachers and so, it was about the country and mismanagement and abuse of public funds and things like that. So, myself, Paul Perriott [former president of the Belize Communication Workers' Union (BCWU)], Mr. Anthony Fuentes, the current Mayor [of Punta Gorda, former BNTU president], our lives were at stake! But God was with us, and that's the important thing. You trust in God, you fight for truth and justice and you stand up, without fear."

According to Frazer, he came very close to not joining the teaching profession and "chopping wood and backing water" at home. He was one of only two persons to receive a scholarship to study from the Cayo District after passing the scholarship examinations held at Belize Technical College, and attended Wesley College. The Government paid a $40 bursary for him to stay with someone in the City while he attended school, and his mother, Jane Cruz, who started the local Red Cross, let him know he had to make something of himself and take care of his family.

He hands over his post to understudy Keisha Young Flowers at the BNTU. The father of two (who met his wife when she was a BNTU secretary) says he will now pursue some business ventures while finally devoting some time to his family and to travel. He will live in his hometown at his property located not far from the local police station.

Frazer holds a Meritorious Service Award from the Government of Belize (in 2008), and last February a street was named after him in Belize City as an award from the Belize City Council, in addition to numerous awards in teaching and trade unionism.

In his "parting shot", Frazer touted the value of education and technical and vocational training for those not inclined to academics, and the importance of taking care of our women and respecting them, and even the role of the police in enforcing the law.

But he also warned that if he is needed and called upon, he will not hesitate to return to the forefront, where he has been for so long.

Amandala joins the teaching and trade union community in wishing Mr. Frazer the very best on the life ahead of him.


Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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The union lion

George Harold Alexander Frazier is not a saint. We don't know of any. But for the better part of the last three decades he has been the firebrand union activist, the general secretary of the largest, most militant union in all the land - the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU). He has seen union presidents come, and he has seen union presidents go, but he has remained: the one constant through it all.

George Frazier, now 65 and now only a shard of his old self, will retire at the end of July. He still has the unmistakable gait but slower, and the voice is not the same, but the intensity and clarity of thought is as keen as ever.

On the Opposition radio station's morning show a week or so ago, the co-hosts badgered him, tried to get him to say things indiscreet. But the wily fellow was having none of it. But he did say this, and no one in the rest of the media picked it up - teachers and public officers were demanding a raise from government, and that starting in June they were giving Belmopan three months to deliver. "If not, we will take it to the next level," he declared.

There is a fair chance that the old lion had gotten caught up and was having flashbacks to earlier times when his roaring commanded hundreds, sometimes thousands. We will concede that. But this is as experienced a union man as there is; he is not so easily trapped. Plus it's been almost 10 years since the last pay raise for teachers. With cost of living going through the roof, teachers and public officers must be getting a trifle restless.

The George Frazier we know was no fast-talking salesman. He was fearless; he backed up his chat. Ant it didn't matter which government was in. He was going to bring it, and bring it hard. He had humbled the UDP leading up to the 1998 elections, and he along with other leaders in the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), for a few weeks in January and early February of 2005, almost brought the PUP government to its knees.

In January of 2005 the conditions for a perfect storm were looming. The Senate Special Select Committee was exposing for world and country to see that some senior skullduggery had taken place at the DFC and SSB in the PUP's first term. And now the people were being forced to pay for all the mismanagement and corruption. They were not happy; in fact they were downright angry.

Just two years earlier the leaders in Belmopan had taken teachers and public officers for fools. They had taken away with one hand what they had given them with the other. They had increased Social Security contributions just two months after giving them a pay raise - 8% and 5 % for junior and senior teachers and officers respectively, for each of the next three years. The increased Social Security contributions essentially wiped out their raise.

While the teachers and public officers protested against the Social Security increases outside the National Assembly in 2003, inside, the government, in cahoots with the opposition UDP, was raising their own pay by in excess of 300 percent. Cabinet Ministers were now making $90,000 a year. The PUP's arrogance was becoming insufferable.

It is against this backdrop of cynicism and righteous indignation that Said Musa announced in his January 21, 2005 Budget speech that he was extracting $91 million in new tax revenue from the people, and he was going to stagger the last year of the pay raise for teachers and public officers over a three-year period.

This was a Prime Minister who was losing his moral authority to govern. Add the fact that he had just three weeks earlier shattered the Southside with the removal and the resignation from the Cabinet of the only two PUP area representatives on the Southside, Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde respectively, and the streets were not pleased. Things had begun to bubble.

But George Frazier's reputation took a hit the afternoon of Thursday, February 3, 2005.

Teachers and public officers, joined by students and businesspersons, were preparing for a massive shutdown of the country the following day, Friday, February 4, 2005. It was the culmination of two weeks of non-stop agitation - the constituency offices of two Orange Walk Ministers had been burnt, in Belize City the Women's Department had been set afire, and in Cayo, a police booth was destroyed by flames.

Thousands of teachers and students across the country had been out of school for an unprecedented 11 straight days. Businesses were closing in solidarity, as many as 159 businesses on one day. BTL and BEL workers were out of office and in the streets. BWSL was turning on the pipes for just a few hours each day.

The consensus was that the planned nationwide shutdown was going to spell big, big trouble for the government. The government had been hemorrhaging ever since the year begun. There was revolutionary talk in the streets.

The teachers, since January 21, had become a clear and present danger to the government. They had the full support of the masses.

And then the BNTU's Council of Management blinked. Eight out of 10 of their branches, with the exception of Belmopan and Belize City, voted to accept the government's offer to pay them their full raise starting April 1, 2005, and to delay the implementation of the new taxes by one month to allow for further dialogue. The Council of Management was asking all teachers to return to the classroom the following day, Friday, February 4. Incredibly, the branch presidents voted on the government's offer without taking it back to their membership.

Something was amiss. The result was fiery public exchanges between teachers and their leadership. Many teachers still showed up for the Friday demonstration, but they felt betrayed. The teachers were divided. By Monday, February 7, they had returned to the classroom, after an unprecedented 12-day strike. The NTUCB soldiered on, but without the teachers the government had dodged a bullet.

George Frazier in an interview on KREM RADIO yesterday, Wednesday, said that back in those fateful weeks early in 2005, their lives were in danger. He recounted that on a trip to Orange Walk for a meeting one night, one of the rear wheels on their BNTU vehicle flew off. When they checked the nuts on the other rear wheel it was clear it had been tampered with: all the nuts were loose.

The matter was never reported, and as far as we recall, it never made the nightly news. For sure, some people won't believe the old lion. He still has his detractors. But these were not ordinary times, and the government was desperate. We have seen that people in power cling to power, oftentimes by any means necessary.

George Frazier is a lion. Straight like that. In his prime none could compare. We can't say what exactly led to the BNTU's Council of Management surrendering. Was it selfishness? Was it fear? Greed? Partisan politics? We can't say.

In the strict order of things, George Frazier was the executive secretary of the BNTU. He was an employee of its Council of Management. He took his orders from them. But the gangly George had become, in a sense, larger than life. So it was easy for us to believe it was the other way around. But on that fateful Thursday back in February 2005, that wasn't the case. It is written.


Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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George Frazer; a Life Revealed

George Frazer

George Frazer is an institution in the trade union movement. He has been at the front lines of the labor movement for close to three decades advocating for the rights of workers and fighting against injustices. The Lion, as she called, has led strikes, protests and has sat at the bargaining table for long years. But soon, the Lion is retiring from active unionism. News Five's Isani Cayetano got his parting shots.

"God love all ah wi and wi must treat each other di way we want dehn treat wi."

Famed Trade Unionist George Frazer, a career advocate of the labor movement in Belize, will be stepping down from his job as executive secretary of the Belize National Teachers Union in July, completing a twenty-nine year tenure motivated by his fervor for equality and solidarity within the workforce.

George Frazer, General Secretary, B.N.T.U.

"Reading and hearing about the struggle that other workers had and again with the establishment of organizations like the I.L.O., International Labor Organization, learning from some of the older trade union people that look workers are important. Many of the people, the rich people dehn might got di money but da you haffi do it."

In 2008, Frazer was among a cohort of thirteen outstanding Belizeans to be honored for their various contributions to society. As part of his accomplishments he was conferred the Meritorious Service Award.

George Frazer, Recipient, Meritorious Service Award [File: September 18, 2008]

"I see it as an honour; I am humbled by it and the recognition given. I know I have given over forty years of my service to my country in terms of education as a teacher both at primary and secondary. I have done a lot in trade unions for over thirty-five years in the fore front and fighting for better conditions for all workers and especially for teachers. I have served on many boards, many, many boards. I have represented our country in at least thirty-seven countries in trade union and education matters."

George Frazer transitioned from the classroom to the office of the General Secretary of the Belize National Teachers Union in February of 1983. Since then he has been at the forefront defending workers from the many injustices in the workplace.

George Frazer

"The people at the lower end of the economic ladder da usually di poor man, the farmers, the people working out there in the streets with city council, town council, teachers, fishermen, many of these [kinds of people] they are being paid minimum wage and many times we were far behind the rest of the Caribbean. And so these were the things that pushed me."

In August 2008, Frazer was on the frontline charging that the Ministry of Education was deliberately behind the transfer of scores of teachers across the country, a move that the B.N.T.U. described as political interference.

George Frazer [File: August 26th, 2008]

"We are concerned on two fronts and not just this year. This year, what compliments it is that all the government high school boards were dissolved. Some of them still were just half way in their term. So one is the dissolving of all the boards during the holiday time."

Marion Ali
"It's the timing of it."

George Frazer
"Yes, but even more concern to the union, every time after general election, whichever party get in they start to interfere in the government primary schools, especially in the Orange Walk. They felt some of the teachers were more from the other party which lost. They begin to transfer them and really it's against the rules."

Marion Ali
"But tell me how does this really affect the delivery of education at these schools?"

George Frazer
"It will affect the delivery of education because normally as the education rule sixty-nine which has to do with transfer, it tells you, you must not transfer a teacher more than every three years unless the teacher asks to be transferred and again when you make a transfer it should benefit both sides. It should benefit the school, maybe the school needs to balance the staff. There may be some staff which have few trained teachers or experienced teachers so yoh want uplift the standard of the school."

In honor of Frazer's professional achievements, a street was named after him in the Collet Division in May, 2011. Unfortunately, the signage was vandalized a few weeks later. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Channel 5

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