Unions full day demonstration of government
A teacher’s demonstration has morphed into a massive protest; thousands are expected to show their muscle in Belmopan. It starts in about fourteen hours and teachers will be joined by other union members of the National Trade Union Congress when they descend on Independence Hill. The battle cry is over salary adjustments which the unions have not received for years. After crunching the numbers, the unions say they can show how government can afford to provide a staggered salary adjustment of thirty percent. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
The National Trade Union Congress of Belize and its eight unions are at an impasse with the government regarding a document with twenty-three proposals, three of which deal with finances. The President of the N.T.U.C.B. in conjunction with the B.N.T.U. and the APSSM explained the reasons for Tuesday’s planned protest in the Capital.
Dylan Reneau, President, N.T.U.C.B.
“Why now? Well government when they were handed proposals in 2008, gave back a response in 2009 and said; “Yes, no; we can discuss further, yes no.” the salary increase, proposal number one, was a no. And so it was the decision of negotiating body to go after those that they had common ground. that was since signed last year and now we are at the point of discussing the contentious issue—the salary increase being one. So it isn’t that the unions are just now blazing up and acting up out of the ordinary. We are following a process.”
The Belize National Teachers Union and its foot-soldiers will lead the demonstration.
Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.
“Tomorrow the B.N.T.U. along with our other unions, through our trade union congress of Belize, will be arranging a peaceful demonstration in Belmopan. It begins at nine o’clock in the morning with a parade around the ring road and then we will have a rally on the steps of National Assembly building and we expect to be joined by our other affiliates as we make it known that we are not taking this sitting down. We are not being unreasonable. We want our people to understand that the government when it is out here exposing that if the teachers and the public officers get this raise that some pie pan will get emptied. The question that needs to be clarified is who is emptying the pie pan.”
But Jose Castellanos, the President of the APSSM, says that the Statistical Institute of Belize’s inflation figures do not accurately represent the cost of living.
Jose Castellanos, President, APSSM
“With respect to cost of living adjustment, inflation; this is normally accommodated indirectly through collective bargaining agreements. Collective Bargaining Agreements deals with compensating public officers for what is already owed to them. I think this is key; the issue owed to them. There is always a logging process. I pay you in the future for what I owe you in the past. Now in terms of justification and merit; government has been saying that the inflation rates are equal or higher than the increments. First of all, I want to say that I consider the inflation rates as released by government what I title paper inflation. The inflation rate has been two point five percent per annum over the past eight years. Some of those figures are really troubling to us in the labor movements. For instance we have 2009, negative inflation; saying to the Belizean society that prices are going down. 2010, one percent inflation. And that is troubling because we know that reality it is not that and we have the evidence to say that that is not so. In other words if this was true, from 2005 to 2012, the inflation would only have been nineteen percent or twenty percent. But let’s look at the real figures. Take the price of rice; it went up from eighty cents to one-twenty-five for a period of six years. That is sixty-three percent inflation as opposed to what the paper inflation says, seventeen percent. Look at corn; it went from twenty-five cents to fifty-two cents. These are not my figures; these are public information. A hundred and eight percent inflation, not the seventeen percent according to the two point five each year. Beef, the same trend—three dollars to four—that’s thirty-three percent inflation. Again not the two point five percent per annum. Poultry which is one point five-five per pound; that’s what you used to pay for poultry in 2005. Now you have to pay more than two-sixty. Seventy percent inflation. Friends, this has ramifications. This is not only a number, this has ramifications. Proposal is for thirty percent salary adjustment for loss of purchasing power experienced over the last ten years. Now the unions are conscious of government’s financial situation and those are proposing the adjustment be spread over a period of three years. It is important to note that the unions have always maintained flexibility in terms of the rate and the time frame for implementing the salary adjustment.”
“The idea of tomorrow’s demonstration is for us to register our disapproval, our dissatisfaction. We are expecting the ten branches of the B.N.T.U. to bring out their teachers in numbers and we have again been informed that there are other organizations that will join us. We are definitely sure that we will have over two thousand teachers out there tomorrow.”
“After we have this demonstration, we have a meeting on Friday with Prime Minister. Depending on the outcome of that meeting; that will be reported back to the membership and if the membership is not satisfied, then the membership will direct how we move.”
Though the real demonstration of power will be at the bargaining table, the unions need to show numbers at Tuesday’s demonstration. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.
Earlier today the Ministry of Education issued a public information notice advising managing authorities, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders that teachers and other members of staff not participating in the demonstration shall report to work unless circumstances beyond their control prevent them from so doing. Secondly, the ministry says that it is the duty of managing authorities to take necessary measures to ensure that schools are open for classes and to ensure that there is safety of students and members of staff present.