On Wednesday’s news, viewers saw teachers from Stann Creek join a motorcade to express displeasure at the government’s proposed salary cut and increment freeze for teachers and public officers for three years. What you may not know is at the same time on Wednesday in Belize City the council of management of the Belize National Teachers Union was meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Cordel Hyde and Education Minister Francis Fonseca. The B.N.T.U. was seeking clarification on the proposed cut and also made recommendations to the government. But by the end of the meeting, they say it became apparent this was already a done deal. To make matters worse, Prime Minister John Briceño was at the City Council swearing-in telling the media “the teachers and the public service have not done any kind of sacrifice.” National President of the B.N.T.U., Senator Elena Smith says the teachers demand an apology.

Senator Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U.

“In the meeting yesterday, and as we did before, we’ve asked them clearly if that was their final position and we were told yesterday by the Deputy Prime Minister was that they are not hard and fast on those proposals; that the reason why they were coming to us to discuss these matters and come up with the best solutions. We know that this is not going to be an easy fight because while we hear certain persons saying one thing, then we hear other persons saying another thing. And to add to it was the comment made by the prime minister that teachers and public officers are the ones that have not sacrificed anything. And that certainly did not sit well with our teachers. And for our prime minister of this country to look at our teachers when the person closest to him is a teacher and to say that we have not sacrificed anything is out of order and disappointed to say the least because having a teacher in his home, he should understand what teachers have to go through, what we have to do on a daily basis for us to carry out as teachers. How much we have to sacrifice from our own families; taking things from your homes and taking them to school just to do your job. So his statement has really gotten our teachers riled up and I hope that he would reconsider and he would apologise to our teachers for that statement.”

Are Teachers Planning to Strike?

On March fifteenth, the B.N.T.U. will issue a counterproposal to G.O.B., which is expected to be discussed in cabinet. But the firebrand union is monitoring the situation very closely and has developed a plan of action. The green B.N.T.U. T-shirts will be worn on days when teachers report to school. There will be a series of social media updates and simultaneous motorcades next week, candlelight vigil and a series of other activities leading up to a press conference on March twenty-sixth, the same day the budget will be presented at the House. But will the teachers strike? Here’s how Senator Elena Smith responded to that question.

Senator Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U.

“As a union, we do not instruct our teachers; our members instruct us. And so as the president, I have no choice but to go to the mandate of the majority of our branches. So we have ten branches, once six branches say we will do X, we have no choice; the other four has to follow behind and do. And so we have agreed on a series of activities for right now and our teachers know and I guess people know that when they see those green shirts coming out, they know that something’s happening. So something might be happening.”

Duane Moody

“So strike action senator?

Senator Elena Smith

“Well I don’t know. We are just starting out Duane. We have to go back to our people, inform them of what the decision is, see if there is going to be counterproposals. So we have to have activities to match what is going on. And depending on what they give us, we want to see what will be presented in the House on that day. And so we will be using that to speak to our teachers via press conference. We have been known as a union that stands up for everything and we are not cowards. There are times when people don’t understand the way we move, because people don’t understand our constitution and how we operate, our procedures. But when we get to that point where our teachers have given us a mandate, then it is straight shooting from there. There is no turning back. Once we get to that point, there is no turning back. And I will tell you this, that once our teachers get to the point where they have had enough, it doesn’t matter if it is the government that they support or not, our teachers will come out – red, blue, green, yellow – they will come out. So as leaders that is the reason why we have to be very – I don’t want to say careful – but we have to ensure that we follow proper procedures and that when we act, the timing is right.”

Channel 5