Bolstered by Caribbean Union of Teachers
The countrywide strike by the Belize National teachers Union continued today affecting all church managed and government schools. Thousands of teachers stayed out of the classroom for the fifth day of their strike, and tens of thousands of school children in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions stayed home – as the strike went into its fifth day. And the news tonight is that it's going into day six. That's right, this evening at the BNTU's national headquarters the Belize District President delivered the announcement:…
Kathleen Flowers - President, Belize Branch, BNTU
"Today's meeting directed them to continue the strike action. The strike continues into Wednesday and we do day by day activities and so because we know we have parents we have students, we have the committee at large that supporting us. We are saying to them we appreciate your support, we love having you on board with us and we ask you to stay the course with us because this strike action is all in the good of our nation. The classrooms remain empty, the teachers are not going to school and we know that there are management, we know that there are persons in the administration that are asking our teachers to go back to school but we view that as a way of breaking up the movement. I say to our teachers as long as you're conviction remain firm that the BNTU is doing a fight is worthy of teachers and a fight that is worthy of this nation for our future benefit. You stay the course with us and you stay out of the classrooms and you come be a part of your union's activities."
"You're 3% remains on the table and the national agenda for good governance remains on the table. We will continue the course until we get those two things addressed. I can indicate that the Caribbean Union of Teachers has indicated in a letter written to the prime minister that we need to resolve this matter quickly and I can say BNTU is prepared to resolve this matter quickly as long as the prime minister respects us as a union and come sit and talk with us. We do not appreciate being told to go to our parents; we appreciate being told we respect you BNTU, sit and talk with us."
Flowers said the union is asking its teachers to go to their respective branch offices to engage in activities.
Luke Lambastes PM For NTUCB Suggestion; PM Proposes Thursday Meeting
And while that was the message today – on Friday the teachers said they would only go back to the table if the Prime Minister wrote them a formal letter asking them to come back. That he did; by 6:00 pm on Friday, the Prime Minister had sent the BNTU a letter. In that letter he asked the BNTU to come back, but under the umbrella of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize – which is also pursuing the good governance agenda.
Well, the BNTU has rejected that, and they want to continue their fight for good governance on their own. To address it directly, the President recorded his own statement over the weekend in which he stated clearly why they aren't prepared to dialog as part of the NTUCB.
It appears to be a direct stinging criticism of the NTUCB when, in that message, he notes that the Prime Minister is trying disarm them. Palacio says, that the Prime Minister, has, quote, "sought home court advantage by kicking the ball into a new playing field, where he hopes it will have a softer landing"
Here are a few excerpts of that message from Palacio:
Luke Palacio - National President - BNTU
"Contrary to the image that has been portrayed of the BNTU's leadership that it is blindly guided by the teachers of Belize countrywide to advance an agenda of the People's United Party. We need to categorically state that this has been a movement built on a mandate from the membership of the BNTU. It began with the cries from our membership surrounding perceived acts of corruption in our country and the rapidly deteriorating physical health of the nation. These were the facts that teachers saw as the stumbling blocks to our negotiations for realising the third trench our salary adjustment. Hence the genesis of BNTU's 8 point agenda that speaks to elements of good governance and respect for the workers. We made the call to membership and they were convinced that the objects for stand up Belize campaign are just if our nation is to be better governed. It was our hope that the government would have responded in some positive manner but instead this administration has refused to give any substantial credence to a good governance call as if though all is well in our country."
"The government of Belize continues on its mission of divide and conquer in order to keep a hold of its pride, ego and control over the nation's people and resources. Instead time, energy and monies of which precious little are left in the coffers have been spent to bring down the character of the leaders, membership and teachers at large. Yesterday BNTU sent out a call to the prime minister to respect the union by giving us an official meeting date, venue and time. Instead he has sought home court advantage by kicking the ball into a new playing field where he believes it will have a softer landing."
"Let it be known that the BNTU sees this act for exactly what it is, divide and conquer. The BNTU remains firm in its request for the prime minister to meet with us and repeats that the door remains open for further discussion with all parties including the NTUCB."
But despite all that hard talk – it seems Palacio did respond to the Prime Minister in writing – even though he did not publicize his letter.
But we know he responded because today the Prime Minister wrote back, acknowledging receipt of a letter from Palacio.
Obviously, Palacio made his displeasure with the NTUCB proposals known in that letter because the PM says, quote, "NTUCB is the proper bargaining agent to conclude this matter with Government." End quote. But, the PM concedes, that the negotiations began with the BNTU and concludes, quote, "I think the justice of the situation requires that I have another meeting with the BNTU to further address the issues raised."
On this ground, the PM proposes a meeting with the BNTU at 2:00 on Thursday afternoon, at the Biltmore.
There's been no response from the BNTU yet.